Gordon R. McKenzie



When Mrs. Surette made her son a joint holder of her bank account, she probably thought he would take care of her when she no longer could. She did not expect that she would have to sue her son to get back the money he withdrew from the account. She said it was a loan. The son said it was a gift. Fortunately for Mrs. Surette, the son could not prove her intent to give him the money and had to repay her (Surette v. Surette).

If you are considering a joint account, be sure your joint account holder is trustworthy. Remember, if you don't have enough money in your account to pay your expenses, the joint account holder could not pay your bills. Appointing a power of attorney for finances lets you give someone access to all your assets to pay your bills.

A joint account gives you a chance to beat the tax man if you give the joint account holder a "right of survivorship." Just as a joint account cannot replace a power of attorney for finances, it cannot replace a will as an estate planning tool. Leaving everything to the joint account holder to avoid probate taxes may be fine with the joint account holder, but the rest of your family may not think much of the idea.

A joint account gives you interesting options when planning your estate. They should be used carefully though and as part of your overall plan and not as a substitute for it.

This article is presented as general information only and is not to be relied on as legal advice. You should contact your lawyer to see how the law applies to your circumstances before any action is taken.

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