Justin, I want to add my daughter to my bank account so that she can write checks for me. When I visited a branch to do that, the banker I met with didn’t think it was a good idea, but I’m not sure why. Can you help clear this up for me? – David
David, I’m glad to hear that your banker cautioned you against adding your daughter to your account. There are many instances in which people make the change you’re thinking about without ever being aware of the potential dangers.
I agree with your banker. We rarely recommend that our clients add other individuals to their bank accounts. I understand the convenience argument. But when you add a name to your bank account, you expose that account to any potential legal risks that person might face—bankruptcy, divorce, and law suits for example.
You also risk messing up your estate plan. Most people wish to have their estate divided among several different people when they die. But when you add a name to an account, banking law says that particular account goes to that one person, not to the group of people you may have intended when you wrote your estate plan.
There are better ways to accomplish your goal. Most importantly, I recommend that you execute a thorough power of attorney document. That grants a person you choose the authority to sign checks and handle other business affairs on your behalf without putting any assets in that person’s name.
To learn more about power of attorney documents, and to read about other suggestions I have for people in your situation, order a copy of my book, You Need A Plan. It’s available at YourPlanMatters.com. I also encourage you to call for a no-charge strategy session with me or one of the attorneys I work with. There’s no substitute for getting sound advice from an attorney who specializes in this type of work.