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Dangers to having joint bank accounts with adult children

A parent whose only asset is a bank account might decide that a simple way to avoid Probate is to make his child joint owner of the account. But there are potential problems associated with owning an account jointly with a child.

For example, suppose all you own is a bank account and you want whatever you have in this account to go to your child should you die. You might think that a simple solution is to make your child joint owner of the account, but first consider risks associated with a joint account.

Making your child a joint owner of the account gives the child free access to the account. Monies may be withdrawn without your knowledge or authorization. You may be thinking that couldn't happen because you would immediately know of the withdrawal, and you could force the child to return the money. That may be true when you are healthy and alert, but in this ever aging society, it is likely that you will live to an advanced age and not be as aware as you are today. And if you have two children and decided to hold your account jointly with them, then there may be a problem with how the funds are distributed should you die.

There is also potential liability to having a joint bank account with your adult child. If you hold a bank account jointly with your adult child and that child is sued or gets a divorce, then the child may need to disclose his ownership of the joint account. In such a case, you may find yourself spending money to prove that the account was established for convenience only and that all of the money in that account really belongs to you.

As you can see, there are many things to be aware of if you set up a joint bank account with your adult children.

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