Joint bank accounts are convenient because both parties can take money out of them as needed. Some parents open a joint account with their adult children so that the children can access money in an emergency or help them with their finances. However, if either the parent or child gets divorced, the divorce court considers the entire account balance to be marital property.
If a grown child has a bank account with an elderly parent and the child then gets divorced, the bank account can be considered a marital asset, according to Bankrate.com. Thus, all of the assets in the bank account can be divided between spouses, even if some of those assets originally belonged to the parent rather than the child.
100 Percent Rule
If you have a joint bank account with anybody, both people on the account are considered 100 percent responsible for the funds in the account. Thus, if either account holder gets divorced, 100 percent of the funds in the account can be divided as marital property. The court does not divide the funds in the account between the joint account holders before dividing the account between the ex-spouses.
Rather than setting up a joint checking account with an adult child, you can ask your attorney to set up a durable power of attorney. With a durable power of attorney, your child's name will not be on your account, so there's no risk to you if he gets divorced. However, if you become incapacitated through illness or disability, your child will have the right to access the account to take care of your finances for you.
If you have a joint account with your adult child, your funds may be at risk if either one of you gets sued or declares bankruptcy in addition to if there is a divorce. The 100 percent rule applies in all of these cases, so the court will treat the account as if all assets deposited in it belong to the person involved in legal action, even if the majority of the funds belong to the other party on the account.
- Bankrate.com; Risks of Joint Bank Accounts; Roxanne Hawn
- Bank of America. "Our First Bank Account." Accessed April 20, 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "A Closer Look: Overdraft and the Impact of Opting-In," Page 1. Accessed April 20, 2020.
- Code of Virginia. "§ 6.2-606. Ownership During Lifetime; Garnishment, Attachment, or Levy." Accessed April 20, 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Either Person on the Joint Account Generally Has the Right to Move Funds or Close the Account." Accessed April 20, 2020.
- University Credit Union. "Membership Agreement." Accessed April 20, 2020.
- BBT. "Bank Services Agreement," Page 7. Accessed April 20, 2020.
- Wells Fargo. "Opening and Closing Accounts Questions." Accessed April 20, 2020.
- GreenState Credit Union. "Closing Your Account." Accessed April 20, 2020.
- Suntrust. "Rules and Regulations for Deposit Accounts," Page 28. Accessed April 20, 2020.
- Bank of America. "Telling Your Bank It’s Over." Accessed April 20, 2020.
- Washington and Lee Law Review. "Virginia's Equitable Distribution Law: An Owner's Manual," Page 9. Accessed April 20, 2020.
Jack Ori has been a writer since 2009. He has worked with clients in the legal, financial and nonprofit industries, as well as contributed self-help articles to various publications.