It’s hard to overstate the convenience of a shared banking account
Those acting as caregivers for their mother and/or father already have a full plate. In many cases, they’ve got demanding jobs and they’re raising their own families. The convenience of being able to manage all of their parents’ banking activity with their own set of debit and credit cards and checks is understandable. Having complete access to these accounts makes it easy to deposit checks, pay bills and purchase incidentals for the health and wellbeing of their parents.
The problem? How much do parents really know about their adult children?
Parents may see their adult children regularly, but how much do they really know about how they live their lives? Their values, their relationships, their work, their friends, how they spend their money and what they do in their down time? In my own case, my folks lived in Florida for 40 years, while I lived in the Bay Area. We saw each other once or maybe twice/year. Distance tends to make us strangers. As the years went by, we grew more remote in a number of ways.
How trustworthy is your son or daughter?
When your child is added to a bank account, that person becomes a joint owner of the account. That means access to all of your funds. Don’t think the bank is going to monitor how your son or daughter is using that account because that isn’t their job.
Does your child have creditor problems?
If your child has any creditor issues, your bank account well could be levied by a creditor and is in jeopardy. The creditor is not going to distinguish between what belongs to you and what belongs to your child. For an adult child with a mountain of credit card debt that will never get paid off, access to a mother and/or father’s well-funded bank account could be very tempting. One more thing: n
Is your child getting divorced?
During every divorce proceeding, it’s necessary to account for all assets. It’s not unlikely that this shared account could end up as an asset in the child’s Divorce proceeding. In this situation, the child would need to prove that the funds were, in fact, not theirs but belonged to the parent.
Setting the stage for sibling conflict
Upon the death of the parents, the surviving bank account holder is the legal owner of the account’s funds. Your child is now entitled to receive all of the funds from this account. Depending on the amount of money in the estate and other assets, this could create sibling chaos. The other siblings may or may not have known about the shared accounts prior to the parents’ death. There’s something about a death in the family that can bring out the worst in the family. The more instruction you provide, the less potential conflict for the family.
A better solution: Create a Living Trust
A much better, more comprehensive solution is to create a Living Trust, then retitle the bank account in the name of the Trust. By adding the account to the Trust, the Successor Trustee will be able to use the funds to care for the parents if they become incapacitated. The Trust will also include instructions on how the remaining funds will be distributed among the remaining family members. This solution will decrease or eliminate the potential sibling conflict.
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