The Reality of Modern Banking.by Sergio Musetti on 02/28/18
The Reality of Modern Banking – Part 1 It has been many years since I have been able to walk into a bank and have someone recognize me as a customer. Those days are gone, given over to the convenience of online banking and ATM machines. Also gone, unfortunately, is the depth of banking experience a customer could expect from a retail banking employee. Signature Authority on a Checking Account A very common scenario in my business is an elderly client who wants her child to be able to sign checks on the household account “just in case” something should happen. I understand what the client wants–someone who has signature authority on an account–not co-ownership of that same account. Co-Ownership by a Child. At least once a week I ask a new client to check with her bank to see whether the child she has authorized has been listed as a co-owner of the checking account, or merely someone who has the power/authority to sign checks on behalf of the account owner. In the vast majority of the cases, the banks have erred, and have made the child of the account owner a co-owner of the account. What Does That Mean? When the client/owner of the bank account passes away, all of the funds in the co-owned accounts pass to the co-owner/child, regardless of what the client’s estate planning wishes are. In some cases, the damage is minimal, if the co-ownership is on a small household account that has a low balance. But I have seen serious damage done to a client’s estate plan when this misunderstanding resulted in all of the client’s wealth transferred on death to one child, completely cutting out the other children who would have received part of the inheritance through an established estate plan. Wouldn’t the Child Be Obligated to Share? No. A co-owned account is exactly what it says–co-owned by the child who has been signing the checks for Mom. That child is under no legal obligation to share those funds with others named in the estate plan. Visit a qualified estate planning attorney for a check-up of your estate plan, and how your financial accounts are held. It could save your family a lot of grief.