Retirement & Financial Planning Report

For certain assets, you might want to hold title as “joint tenants with right of survivorship (JTWROS).” That gives the joint owners access to such assets, such as bank accounts. After one co-owner dies, the survivor or survivors inherit automatically.

Setting up property to be held as JTWROS is simple and inexpensive. Adding a younger person—such as an adult child—as joint owner can make it easier to handle investments, write checks to pay bills, and so on, especially if the older owner becomes unable to manage his or her finances. What’s more, property held as JTWROS passes to the surviving co-owner or owners without having to go through probate.

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You need to be sure that a joint owner is someone you trust to handle your money properly in the case of incapacity. Also, holding assets as JTWROS means that they will be inherited by your co-owner, no matter what it says in your will. Thus, you should use JTWROS only for assets that you absolutely want your co-owner to inherit.

One option is to name a joint owner only for a checking account where modest amounts are kept, so bills can be paid if necessary in the case of incapacity but losses due to mismanagement would be minimized and there would be little impact on your plans for distribution of your assets on your death.