You may have several reasons to place someone on a joint checking account as a secondary signer. Couples often share accounts to make bill paying easier. Family members open joint accounts so that if one member becomes ill and unable to take care of his business, the secondary signer can step in. Becoming a secondary signer on a joint checking account brings with it legal responsibilities.
What is a Joint Account Signer
A joint checking account has more than one owner. Whether two or 20 account owners are named, each individual named, is solely as responsible for all of the account's actions as the group. A secondary signer is anyone on the account that is not listed as the primary signer. For example, a wife opens a checking account and requests that her husband's name be added to it. The husband is the secondary signer and account owner.
A secondary signer on a joint checking account has the authority to conduct business against the account. Writing checks, using debit cards and credit cards attached to the account and making deposits or withdrawals are privileges enjoyed by secondary signers on joint checking accounts.
Becoming a Secondary Signer
The bank will require a Social Security number, a photo identification and other information about secondary signers. In addition, the legal name of the secondary signer and a signature card with the signer's signature must be on file. The secondary signer is typically required to come into the bank and sign the application and signature card in front of a bank employee to verify that he wishes to be added to the account.
Along with all the privileges afforded a secondary signer on a joint checking account, comes responsibilities and liability. As a secondary signer you are accountable for all business conducted against the account, whether or not you authorized the business. For example, the primary account holder maxes out the credit card or bounces checks and incurs overdraft fees. You are liable for those costs, even though you did not write the checks or use the credit card. The primary account holder is also responsible for the entire cost. The bank will collect from whichever account holder it can; therefore, it is important to carefully choose to whom you are willing to become a secondary signer.
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