Adding a joint owner to a bank account is usually a simple procedure, but as with any financial transaction, you should pay close attention to detail. Mistakes in the process could prevent you from accessing the account properly, and could result in unintended consequences upon the death of one owner. However, most bank requirements are relatively easy to comply with, and you should be able to add a joint owner to a bank account with a minimum of effort.
Decide on the type of ownership you want. The most common form, particularly for spousal accounts, is known as tenancy with rights of survivorship, meaning that when one owner dies, the other inherits the remainder of the account. However, you may have reasons to select a different form of joint ownership, such as tenancy in common, in which each owner selects their own heir, rather than having their share automatically transfer to the co-owner.
Contact your bank. Although some of the requirements to add an owner to an account are standard in the banking industry, each bank may request different documentation.
Look at alternatives to your own bank. Although you have to play by a bank's rules if you want to maintain your account, if you don't want to provide all of the information that a bank requests, you can compare its demands with those of other financial institutions. Especially in larger cities, banks are easy to find and often grouped together, so comparing account opening procedures, even in person, should not take much time.
Comply with the requests of your chosen bank. Although there are variations, you will generally need at least the name, home address, date of birth and Social Security number of the joint owner. Usually, the bank will also require signatures from both owners, verifying their joint intentions. These signatures may not need to be notarized, but may be "medallion guaranteed" by a bank supervisor, which is the bank's confirmation that the signatures are genuine.
Follow up with the bank. Once you have established a joint account, your subsequent statements should reflect the addition of the joint owner, along with the type of joint ownership you have selected.
John Csiszar earned a Certified Financial Planner designation and served for 18 years as an investment counselor before becoming a writing and editing contractor for various private clients. In addition to writing thousands of articles for various online publications, he has published five educational books for young adults.