A bank account owned jointly by two owners is not required to pass through probate when one of the owners dies. Rather, the bank account passes outside of the probate process, and the surviving owner immediately takes full title to the account. Many times, people add a joint owner to their bank account expressly for the purpose of avoiding probate. However, there are also those who add a joint owner to their account without fully understanding the legal repercussions of doing so.
A person who titles a bank account in joint ownership ultimately loses the ability to bequest the account through a will. Even where a will provision specifically mentions a bank account, it may not pass to the beneficiary if the account is titled jointly. This means that people should be extremely cautious when adding a joint owner to a bank account. People many times inadvertently make permanent estate planning decisions in the name of adding a loved one to their bank account for the sake of expediency.
The truth is that joint ownership can be a very important and useful tool when it comes to creative estate planning. However, there are serious implications when adding a joint owner to your bank account. The possibility is here to inadvertently disinherit your loved ones in this manner. It may be prudent to consult with your estate planning attorney when making changes to how your finances are arranged. Making important and lasting decisions without qualified legal counsel can create problems that could easily have been avoided. For a consultation with an attorney at JacksonWhite, please call (480) 464-1111 and ask speak to someone in the Elder Law department.