FEDweek

Using Joint Ownership for Incapacity Planning

The simplest, least expensive tactic for dealing with potential incapacity is to put some assets in joint ownership, with right of survivorship. For example, you might name a son or daughter as joint owner of your bank account so he/she can pay bills for you, handle deposits, etc.

However, there are problems with this tactic:

* At the death of one co-owner, the survivor automatically inherits the balance of the account. That’s true no matter what it says in a will. In the above example, your designated son/daughter would inherit your bank account while any other children will be excluded.

* Joint ownership provides no protection against poor judgment. If one decides to empty a joint bank account to invest in some kind of a sham deal, there is nothing the other co-owner can do about it.

* Creditors of either co-owner may have access to the joint account.

To reduce the need for joint ownership of a bank account, arrange for automatic deposit of investment income and Social Security checks as well as automatic payment of utility bills. If some joint ownership is still desired, limit the amount kept in the account.