It takes two (or more) to open a joint bank account. But really, who owns the money in the account? We break it down so that you can go into this decision with confidence.
In short, a joint bank account is a bank account held by more than one person. Joint bank accounts aren’t just for married couples. Cohabitating couples, family members, and roommates can all go into a bank to sign up for a joint bank account. The account holders can write, sign, or send checks from the account or use a shared debit card.
Here’s what’s important to know: Both or all parties are legal owners of the joint bank account, and therefore, own the money. It doesn’t matter who first decided to open the account, each individual is able to deposit and withdraw money into and from it.
Important: This means that one account holder can withdraw all of the money in the account without the consent of the other.
It doesn’t matter who the larger contributor is, you both have equal access to the funds within the account. So even if Jane is constantly funding the account, but Joe is constantly withdrawing money, they have equal access to the money in the account.
You’re in it together. That means if one account holder overdrafts the account, commits fraud, or commits other negative financial actions, all the holders are on the hook and are financially or even possibly criminally liable.
This is why it’s so important to trust the person that you’re opening the account with. Before opening the account, make sure you know the rules going in and are confident that your co-account holders are financially responsible enough to commit to sharing a bank account with.
Of course, there’s no rule that you have to go all-in with your finances with another person. You can absolutely keep your own individual account and contribute to your joint bank account as you see fit. There are lots of ways to automate money into your joint bank account so that there’s always money there when you need it, like for your rent or mortgage.
Some banks will allow funds to be transferred from a joint bank account into an individual account if both accounts are owned by the same bank. If you want to understand all the ways your money can flow back and forth from your joint bank account and individual accounts, it’s best to check with your bank and see what it allows you to do.
If one holder of the account dies, depending on which state you're in, the account and all money contained within will most likely transfer to the surviving holder.
This comes down to your personal judgment and understanding of that person’s financial situation and history with money. At Zeta, we believe that communicating with your partner is key to getting on the same page around money habits and goals for the account.
If you and your partner are ready to take this step, consider playing our 20 Questions game. Not only will it bring you closer to understanding your financial past, present, and future, but it will also help you understand each other’s money stories, a part of your biographies that often don’t get discussed during the honeymoon phase of the relationship.
He’s a spender. She’s a saver. Can this financial partnership be saved? Of course it can.READ MORE
Manual or automatic? Jeff Kreisler, co-author of Dollars and Sense offers tips and advice for couples.READ MORE
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