Santa Clara Probate Lawyer: Considerations Before Adding a Child to Your Bank Account

When working with families dealing with probate on a loved one’s estate, Santa Clara probate lawyers often find themselves answering a variety of questions about how to avoid probate in the future. There are a whole lot of tools at the disposal of a Santa Clara probate attorney when it comes to protecting an estate, and each has its pros and cons.

One method that older individuals sometimes consider to keep some assets out of probate is to have their adult children added as “joint owners” of their bank accounts. Essentially, this means that the account, and its contents, becomes the property of not only the parent, but also anyone else named as a joint owner. The intention is that once the parent passes away, the child(ren) can immediately access the money without it ever having to go through probate.

This approach can work, and it’s possible that a Santa Clara probate lawyer will recommend it as a viable option for passing on assets. On the other hand, he or she might not because adding others to your accounts can lead to other problems. These don’t affect every individual, so you will definitely want to discuss it thoroughly with a probate lawyer in Santa Clara. That said, some potential pitfalls should be considered.

For one thing, every joint owner will have full access to the account. Even while the parent is alive, the adult child(ren) could choose to spend the “parent’s” money however he or she wishes with no legal repercussions. Sadly, many parents have lost their entire income or savings when their children have taken advantage of this situation. To take it a step further, unless every single child/heir is listed as a joint owner on the account, whomever has been named could theoretically keep all of the money without splitting it with siblings.

Another very real concern is that both the parent and the child could also suffer should one of them be in debt. Creditors could demand money from anyone with their name on the account, regardless of who put the money in there. So, if the parent’s Social Security check was deposited but the child (who was a joint owner on the account) owes back taxes, it’s possible that the Social Security money could be seized to pay the debt.

Again, these are just matters to take into consideration. It’s up to you and a good Santa Clara probate lawyer to determine what will work best for your particular circumstance and situation.

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