There are several reasons you may wish to add a family member to one of your bank accounts. Those who are recently married, for example, may want to add their spouse to the account. Aging parents may also find it easier to add an adult child to help with writing checks for bills. No matter what the reason, there are several ways to go about the process. It's best to review them all and then choose the one that best meets your needs.
Adding to Your Existing Account
Many banks require an in-person visit in order to add someone to your existing account. Bank of America recommends calling ahead of time to schedule an appointment and to find out which documents you are required to bring. Most likely, you'll need to bring the account number, as well as the personal information of the individual you'd like to add to the account, such as their full name, birthdate, Social Security number and address. A photo ID may be required to verify identity. It's important to note that once the individually has been successfully added to the account, they will have full access to the funds in that account. It has now become a joint account.
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Opening a New Joint Account
Some banks won't allow you to add a name and will require you to close out your account and then go through the process of opening a new joint account. You'll need to fill out an application in the name of both parties and provide all of the required documents. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau points out that joint accounts physically belong to both parties, which means anyone named on the account can withdraw funds from the account. If you don't 100 percent trust the friend or family member you want to add to the account, you shouldn't open a joint account.
Additionally, the CFPB states that if the friend or family member you added has any debts, creditors can come after that account. Upon death, the joint account will belong solely to the other individual named on the account. It will not be included in your estate and distributed to your heirs.
Opt for a Convenience Account
Thanks to the Uniform Multiple-Party Accounts Act, individuals have the option of going with a convenience account. According to NOLO, half of the states offer a convenience account, which is a safer alternative to a joint checking account. With a convenience account, the individual you add only has the right to use the funds for your benefit. He or she will not own the account and it will not pass to them upon your death. The funds in the account will be included with your estate and distributed as instructed in your will.
Since convenience accounts aren't widely advertised, you may not find the option on your bank's website. You'll need to call a few local banks to determine whether this type of account is offered in your state.
Granting a Power of Attorney
Individuals have another option when needing a friend or family member to take over certain financial tasks. They can appoint someone as their power of attorney (POA). BCR Wealth Strategies states that there are two POA types to choose from. A limited POA only allows the individual to sign your checks, which is a great option if you simply need help paying bills. The individual will not have any ownership in the account. A durable POA works just like a joint checking account, without the account passing to the POA upon your death. The durable POA can, however, withdraw funds from the account and even close it without your consent.