The owners of a joint bank account have equal rights to the account. One of the owners can go to the bank and take the money out of the account and close it without the other owner present or giving her approval. The bank is obligated to give him the money even though the other owner is not present.
If one of the owners of a bank account is being sued and a creditor decides to put a levy on the account, each owner suffers the consequences. Creditors issue bank levies to freeze accounts, meaning neither owner has access. A bank levy allows the creditor to withdraw money from the account to pay a past due debt owed by one or both of the owners.
When one owner dies, the surviving owner has access to the funds in the account. This keeps the bank account from going to the estate of the deceased owner. This can save time and money. If an account gets tied up in probate or with an estate there is no telling how long it will take to resolve or what the outcome will be.
One of the owners of an account can withdraw all of the money from the bank account and close it. Once the account is closed she can open a new account in her name only. Essentially she can remove the other owner's name from the bank account with a simple transaction. The previous owner has no rights or access to the new account.
Fees incurred as a result of handling the account, because of an overdraft, insufficient funds or another reason, become the responsibility of both account holders. If one account holder writes bad checks and incurs fees that go unpaid, both account holders could be turned over to ChexSystems, which is a consumer reporting agency. The Fair Credit Reporting Act has authority over the operations of ChexSystems. ChexSystems is a database of consumers who have abused their checking account privileges. You may not be able to open a checking account while you are in this database.
If you are being considered for a government program, such as Medicaid, your assets are going to be considered. The fact that your name is on a joint account or has been added to an account as a joint owner, means the funds in the account are considered to be yours. This could disqualify you from certain programs if your assets are higher than the program allows. They may require you to prove that the funds were not contributed by you.