Older Adults Needing Financial Help

Tip: Consider the risks of putting a son or daughter on your bank account as a joint tenant.

Putting an adult son or daughter on a bank account is a common practice of older adults who need help paying bills and managing their finances. However, having a child as a joint tenant on an account may cause the following problems:

  1. The child sometimes withdraws money from the account for their personal use.
  2. If a parent asks the bank to remove the child’s name from the account, the bank requires the child’s signature to have his or her name removed. This often leads to a confrontation between the parent and child, which many parents will avoid.
  3. If there is a joint tenant on an account, and the parent passes away, the Personal Representative of the parent’s estate cannot withdraw money from or close the bank account.
  4. Most often, when the owner of a bank account passes away, the intent of the owner is to have the remaining balance go directly to his or her estate to be divided between all the children. However, Idaho Probate Code § 15-6-104 states that when a joint tenant is added to a bank account and the owner of the account passes away, the money in the account can go to the joint tenant if he or she can prove it was a gift. This leads to all kinds of proof problems concerning the owner’s intent, and the other children are at risk of the joint tenant taking it all.
  5. If a son or daughter is involved in a divorce or takes out bankruptcy, having their name on their parents’ account raises an issue of their ownership interest, and the money could be taken in the divorce or bankruptcy proceeding.

The easiest solution for older adults needing help with finances is for the parents to give a son or a daughter a Financial Power of Attorney (POA). With a POA, the child can assist the parents in paying bills and managing their financial affairs. The child has no ownership interest in the account and has a fiduciary duty to the parents to use the money for their benefit. The parents can revoke the Power of Attorney at any timec if a problem develops.

The parents can also set up a Pay-On-Death Agreement with the bank to pay the remaining balance in the account at their death to whomever they designate.

Remember, there are safer ways of getting help with your finances than putting your son or daughter on your bank account.

Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all of Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity.  If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.