Closing out a joint checking is a routine matter in most situations. Because both owners have equal rights to make changes in most joint accounts, one of the owners can close the account without the express consent of the other. This makes it easy to close the checking account even if a joint owner dies, becomes incapacitated, relocates or otherwise is unable to come to a bank branch and close down the account. On the flip side, however, this simple approach can lead to negative consequences, as one owner can close the account and take off with the entire balance.
The only sure way to ensure that one owner can’t close the account without the other owner’s consent is to set up the account to explicitly require both signatories to perform any transaction.
The bank's business rules determine the available options for closing a joint checking account. Depending on the bank and the account balance, you may have the option to close the account in person, by mail, over the telephone or online. For example, the bank may allow you to close a joint checking account with a zero balance over the telephone or via e-mail, but require that an account with a balance be closed in person.
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In most cases, the process starts by filling out and signing a formal account closure request. You may need photo identification if you're making the request in person. Otherwise, the bank may compare your signature to the one on your signature card. Afterward, any funds remaining in the account will be given to you immediately or be sent to you by mail within a few business days, and the account will be closed.
Closing a Joint Account Under Special Circumstances
The balance in a joint checking account passes to the surviving account holder by right of survivorship if one owner dies. This applies whether the joint owners are a married couple, family members or are unrelated. According to the People's Law Library of Maryland, this applies even if the deceased person's will designates funds in the account to a non-owner beneficiary.
To close the account, the surviving owner only needs to provide a copy of the death certificate and the bank will close the account.