Joint Checking Accounts Right For Some, Not All

Posted by Richard on October 9, 2019

Joint checking accounts can be a prickly topic, but a bit of thought and planning can be enough to alleviate the misgivings (or convince you it’s not right for your situation).
As a basic premise, joint accounts mean equal access to deposit, withdraw, and transfer money. There are legalities to be aware of regarding survivorship rights and the like — regardless of whether it’s family on the account or not — so always consult with an attorney.
Here are a few scenarios to consider, though there are certainly many more iterations:

* Young and newly married. A joint checking account may help manage scarce resources. However, you must have spending rules and communicate about when bills are paid and who pays them.
If one spouse is in debt, you have to agree that all resources will be used to pay off the debt using the joint account. You must agree to how this will be done and then follow the plan.

* Married later in life, with established separate incomes
. A joint account may not be necessary. A combination might work: a joint account to pay bills and separate accounts for personal spending. Or just divide the bills.

* Retirement. An important factor: make sure both spouses are signers if you have separate accounts. This ensures the bills can still be paid if one of you falls ill or is otherwise incapacitated.
Rather than establishing joint accounts, you can take care of people in other ways. Set up accounts to be “payable on death” if you want to name someone as direct beneficiary; Set up durable powers of attorney, which give access to accounts in certain circumstances (illness, incapacitation, etc); and for minor children, set up accounts in trust or UTMA — Uniform Transfer to Minors Act — where you can serve as custodian, but the money is legally the child’s