Should You Add Your Children to Your Financial Accounts When You Need Financial Assistance Later in Life?

Posted on Jun 25 2017 3:38PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

A significant number of older individuals in Tennessee add one or more of their children to their bank accounts to help them manage their finances.  They often do this as joint owners with right of survivorship in order to have them help to pay the bills and to take care of other matters late in life.  This can be an option that sounds very appealing.  However, doing this is a major problem and can cause devastating financial consequences that are completely unintended.   


When someone adds another person as a joint owner on the account, any judgments that the other person obtains against them, could lead to collection efforts against your bank account.  Once the other person is an owner, they are an owner of your account for all purposes.  For instance, if one of your children gets into a serious car accident and severely injures or kills someone else, but they have insufficient insurance coverage to pay for the damages, then the injured party could obtain a judgment against them.  They could then execute against your account to pay the judgment.


Also, when an individual is added to an account as an owner with right of survivorship, then upon the elderly individuals passing, the entire account passes to the other owner pursuant to the right of survivorship terms.  This can cause an unequal distribution of assets among children.  For instance, even if the Will clearly states that everything should be split between your children equally, this money in the account passes outside of that requirement.  This may not be intended and can cause real problems between family members after their loved one dies. 


Additionally, the bank account will be considered part of your child’s assets for purposes of bankruptcy.  If they need to declare bankruptcy, your account could become an asset of the bankruptcy process and you could lose everything.  As a result, there is a tremendous risk in adding even responsible and financially stable individuals as owners of your account.  I recommend against doing this in almost all circumstances because the downside consequences can be so devastating. 


There are other options available to you like completing a Power of Attorney that will allow your children to assist you with your finances later in life.  Also, if you are trying to avoid the probate process for these accounts, then you can list them as a Pay on Death (POD) or Transfer on Death (TOD) beneficiary of the bank account.  Most financial institutions allow this kind of designation.  Regardless, when making these decisions, you need to consult a Tennessee estate planning attorney to assist you further so that you have the best advice to avoid the problems that are present when making these types of decision.


Follow me on Twitter at @jasonalee for updates from the Tennessee Wills and Estates blog.

TAGS: Creditor claims, Power of Attorney, Probate Assets, Tennessee Probate Law
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. Contact Jason at 615-540-1004 or jlee@burrowlee.com for an initial consultation on wills estate planning and probate issues.

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Tennessee Wills and Estates Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
611 Commerce Street, Suite 2603
Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com