As your parent ages, they may need your assistance in staying on top of their bills. Many adult children have considered opening a joint bank account with their parents to make life a little easier, but the convenience may not be worth some drawbacks. There are pros and cons to creating a joint bank account – so before you head off to the bank, consider these facts.
Pros of Opening a Joint Bank Account
These bank accounts can make managing the finances of your elderly loved ones easier. They can also help to:
- Guarantee bill payments are made on time
- Easily manage bills with automatic payments or checks from the joint account
- Keep an eye on Mom and Dad’s finances and make sure they are not being scammed or spending money on fraudulent items
- Check to make sure parents are not spending money frivolously due to cognitive decline
- Manage payment to caregivers and home health aides
- Keep track of and pay for caregiving expenses, including housekeeping and ADL care
- Pay for any needed emergency medical services
- More easily access funds and financial accounts after your parent dies, without dealing with probate courts. Funds can be used for funeral expenses, and hospice or medical expenses not covered by insurance
Risks of Opening a Joint Account
Depending on your finances, combining bank accounts may not be beneficial for you or your parent. There are risks to know about before opening a joint account with your senior loved one, including:
- Ownership rights: The money in the joint bank account is equally owned by both parties. Because of this, either parent or child can take out the money without the consent of the others. The money does not belong to you 50/50, therefore. At any time, either party can take possession of 100% of the finances.
- Financial assistance: The money in the joint account may affect your eligibility to obtain financial assistance. One common example is that sharing a bank account may push a senior citizen above the Medicaid income threshold. In reverse, adding Mom or Dad’s money to your account could negate financial assistance for college students.
- Risk of debt damage: Joint bank accounts are subject to debt collection, divorces, liens and bankruptcy. This means that either party can be placed at financial risk due to the other party’s circumstances.
- Divorce implications: If the adult child named on the account gets divorced, their parent’s finances may be considered in the calculation of assets to be divided in the divorce.
- Bankruptcy issues: If either parent or child declares bankruptcy, the entire account (and both party’s money) will be considered an asset.
- Credit issues: Creditors have the right to pursue the contents of the account if either party is behind on medical expenses or child support payments.
- Sibling conflicts: Money is often the cause of sibling infighting, especially regarding their parent’s care. Joint accounts can lead to disputes if one sibling is the caregiver or assists with paying the bills. While it may seem sensible to create a joint account, family members may resent the access to their parent’s money.
Deciding on a joint bank account is an important decision, and no one answer is right for every family. If you are responsible for your parent’s money, consider the tips above before visiting the bank.
A Banyan Residence is an assisted living and memory care center in Venice, Florida.