Bank Accounts and Accidental Penalties

Many Elder Law clients present to our firm having taken some steps towards preparing their affairs for the eventual end of life by using some well worn pieces of advice.  Unfortunately, not all of the things that people say are true, or, most appropriately, helpful in context.  One such item is re-titling bank accounts.

It is very common for people reaching their twilight years to approach a bank teller and say, “can I do something so that my daughter/son can sign on my account in the event that I am unable to.”  More often than not, that teller, or “personal banker” will then sit down with the senior and make out a new signature card on the account and add the son or daughter as a joint account holder.

Then, they will inform the senior, that the son or daughter can now sign on the account and if something happens, meaning the senior dies, the money will just belong to the son/daughter without any further ado.  What the teller doesn’t do is reconcile the outcome with the Will of the senior, or consider the deemed transfer and ownership rules that apply when the senior has to apply for Nursing Home Medicaid.

Re-titling a bank account is not just a ministerial act.  It is an act with real consequences in property, estate and benefits law and should not be undertaken without professional advice.  Your teller, or “personal banker” is not the professional you should consult.

This article is written by an attorney at Wyatt & Mirabella, PC. Always consult an attorney before making any legal decisions. To make an appointment today for a free consultation, please click here to contact us.