Joint Owner vs. POA

Getting your financials in order is something everyone would like to accomplish. Making sure that the bills are being paid isn’t something that many people want to worry about.

As we grow older, we may need assistance from a family member or a friend. Assistance can be what we consider simple tasks such as getting a ride to a medical appointment, grocery shopping, or fixing things around the house. Another way someone can assist you is by writing your checks or balancing your checkbook.

One way to have someone assist you is by adding your Power of Attorney on your bank accounts. This will allow the person you appointed as your Power of Attorney to access your bank records and make sure that the proper bills are being paid and that your accounts stay managed.

When you met with a banking representative, you probably explained what you would like to accomplish and that you have a Power of Attorney. The bank tells you that they will have the Power of Attorney added to the account. They process everything and send you on your way. When the next statement comes, you realize that your Power of Attorney’s name is accompanying your name as an “owner” and the statement doesn’t reflect their status as “POA”.

In some cases, the banks will add your agent as a joint owner on your account instead of identifying that they are your agent under the Power of Attorney. If this does happen, upon your passing this account will not follow your intent under your Last Will and Testament, but will be transferred to your agent as the surviving joint owner. Naturally, this could cause some issues during the administration of your estate. It would also give your agent the legal right to access the accounts as their own, which could cause another set of issues. Your money could be subject to creditor claims of your “agent, now co-owner”.

If you are adding your agent onto your account at your local bank, please make sure that they are being added as the agent and not a joint owner.

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About the Author

Andrew Bradley is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. and assists in the administration of the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. He holds two Associates Degrees from Camden County College and is a member of the Estate & Financial Planning Council of Southern New Jersey.

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