Joint checking accounts offer convenient money management for many different types of relationships, including married and cohabiting couples and adult children and their parents.
But the convenience of joint checking accounts potentially comes with a cost that families need to consider before signing up. Here are six issues you need to think through before you open a joint checking account with a spouse, a significant other, an adult child, or a parent.
1. There is no accountability for withdrawals
Generally, couples tend to open joint accounts because they are sharing a home and expenses. That means that it’s in their best interests to be responsible with the money, since it will affect them both if the rent money is spent on a weekend in Vegas. However, if one person is unreliable with money, or planning to leave the relationship suddenly, a joint account can be dangerous for the other account holder.
This issue can be more difficult when the two account holders are parent and child. Often, an adult child will request that they be added to their elderly parents’ checking account to help protect dear old Mom or Dad. They can help pay bills, and make sure that there is no fraudulent activity on the account. The problem is that both account holders have every right to withdraw money from the account — which an unscrupulous adult child could take advantage of.
2. Joint accounts are vulnerable to the financial mistakes of both owners
If either account owner has unpaid debts that go into collection, the creditor has every right to use the joint account to satisfy those debts. This means you might potentially find your joint checking account completely drained in order to pay off debts you are unaware that your co-owner has run up.
In addition, if there is a legal judgment against either account owner, the money in the joint account could be considered part of the assets awarded in the judgment. For instance, if Jane is sued because she crashed into a bus,…