Joint checking accounts refer to those bank accounts that are jointly held and operated by two people. They are mostly opted by lifetime partners such as married couples, or by a parent and a child, so that they can put their funds together and also make joint payments.
There are many advantages of opening a joint account. Firstly, opening such an account can save money for the couple, as the bank fees for such account is the same as that for an individual's account.
Secondly, if one of the parties has some credit obligations which he has not been able to fulfill, he can utilize the entire money to fulfill that. Lastly, in case one of the partners dies, the entire funds automatically become accessible to the other partner, without any kind of legal hassle.
These accounts have many advantages. Before opening it though, one should be aware of the rules concerning it and the rights of owners. Here are the important laws that govern these accounts.
Rules and Regulations
Both the owners have equal rights and responsibilities. They have an ATM card, both can write checks and they also have access to Internet banking, besides other facilities provided by banks. The amount of money deposited by each owner is irrelevant as both have equal rights over its usage.
An owner can use the entire amount in the account, without the approval of the other owner, and can even close the account. The other owner cannot hold the bank liable for his loss of money, in such a case.
However, in some banks, you can go for an option wherein you require signatures of both the account holders for withdrawals. It is a safety measure so that each partner is aware of the transactions.
In such an account, any liabilities that may arise, will be equally shared by the co-owners. For example, if one of the owners gets entangled in a lawsuit and the bank account gets attached, in such a scenario, both the owners will have no access to the money. That means the other owner too will lose his money.
Income tax on the interest earned through the money in this account, is levied on the person whose name appears as the primary owner in the bank documents. In case of death of the primary owner, the balance in the account is added to all his assets, to calculate the estate taxes.
What happens after Death?
In case of death of any of the owners, the survivor gets full authority and rights of the account. All he has to do is to take the death certificate of the co-owner to the bank to get the deceased owner's name removed. Once this is done, the surviving owner has full access and rights over the account.
Joint account, as you can see, has its advantages and is especially beneficial for couples. However, it has certain drawbacks too. For example, if one of the owners is an impulsive spender or has huge debts, it can put the other owner's money at risk.
Also, in case of a fight or a divorce, a co-owner can take out all the money from the account, without the knowledge of the other person. Thus, trust and clear communication between the owners is extremely important before going for it. Updating each other of all the deposits as well as withdrawals on a regular basis is essential too.
To avoid any future hassles, keeping a separate personal account for personal expenses and debts, along with a joint account to pay for shared expenses, is an arrangement many couples go in for these days.