10 Jun What are my rights when someone adds me to a bank account?
Q. I know of someone who was joint account holder with his dad for many years, then later his dad then appointed him as power of attorney. How does that work? Is the son still a joint account holder?
A. There are several possibilities here.
Your friend could be both a power of attorney and be a joint account holder, but there are two different concepts involved here.
A joint account is a bank or brokerage account shared by two or more individuals, said Cynthia Aiken, a certified financial planner with Peapack Private Wealth Management in Bedminster.
“Transactions conducted in the joint account may require the signatures of one or both holders depending upon the type of joint account,” she said. “An important aspect of a joint account is the titling because it designates how the funds are divided if one of the account holders dies.”
There are several forms of joint ownership, Aiken said.
With Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship (JTWROS), if one of the account holders dies, then the assets in the account pass directly to the surviving account holder. These assets pass by rule of law outside of probate, Aiken said.
With Tenants in Common (TIC), each account holder can designate a beneficiary for his or her portion of the assets upon death. Also, the assets may not split 50/50, Aiken said. The TIC titling allows account holders to divide ownership any way they prefer, she said.
Then Joint Tenants by the Entirety describes a married couple that jointly owns real estate or a financial account as one legal entity with equal ownership, Aiken said. Neither spouse can transfer his half of the property alone, while alive or by will or trust, because it must go to the surviving spouse and it will transfer without passing through probate, she said.
By establishing a joint account with his son, the father and son have equal access, which can be helpful in the event the father is unable to handle the account at any point due to illness or age.
Then there’s the power of attorney (POA). This is a legal document giving someone the authority to act on behalf of another person in specific or general legal or financial matters, Aiken said.
There are four types of power of attorney, she said.
A general power of attorney provides authority to act on behalf of the principal for legal, property and financial matters as allowed by the state, Aiken said.
“Most POA documents remain in effect if the principal’s mental capacity is good,” she said. “If the principal becomes mentally incapacitated, the POA agreement would automatically end.”
Durable power of attorney provides authority to act on legal, property or financial matters even after the principal becomes mentally incapacitated, she said.
A special or limited power of attorney provides authority to act in specific matters or events and may be limited to a specific period, Aiken said.
Then there’s the springing durable power of attorney, which provides authority to act only under certain kinds of events or levels of incapacitation as defined by the document. This type of POA is inactive until activated by the negative health occurrence, Aiken said.
Your question doesn’t say how the bank account is titled or what kind of power of attorney was established.
“It is possible for your friend to be a joint owner of an account with his father and be granted power of attorney by his father,” Aiken said. “These are two different methods by which your friend can help his father with financial and legal activities or issues when needed.”
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This story was originally published on June 10, 2021
NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.