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Publications | July 21, 2016
2 minute read

What You Need to Know About Adding a Child to Your Bank Account

If you or someone you know is widowed and has more than one child, reading this article could help prevent an inheritance dispute.  It is not uncommon for a parent to add one child to a bank account to help pay bills. But legally, this tells the world that the parent wants only that one child to get the account balance when he or she dies, rather than have that money split equally between all of the children. Maybe that was the intention all along or maybe not.

Most people are surprised to learn that a person’s will does not control who ultimately receives funds in a joint bank account, even if the will states something like “I want everything split equally between my children.” 
If the parent does not document his or her intentions by adding one child to the bank account, the parent is unknowingly setting the table for a post-death dispute between the one child named on the account versus the other children.

Disputes over who should receive the joint account balance are increasingly common even for families that historically got along.  

How can this be avoided? The parent must make his or her intentions clear in writing (e.g. letter or written instructions). The parent’s writing must identify the bank account and indicate the parent's intent for the one child to receive the funds or for the account to be split equally between all children.

The writing should also be signed and dated. Then, the parent should provide a copy of this writing to his or her attorney for safekeeping and retain a copy with his or her estate plan.

This writing can prevent a dispute. If you would like assistance making your intentions clear to avoid a dispute in your family, please contact your Warner Norcross + Judd attorney.