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Who Owns the Money in a Joint Bank Account?

Who Owns the Money in a Joint Bank Account?

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A joint account is a bank account that is opened by two or more people. It is usually opened by couples, family members, or a group of friends. Two or more people can open a joint account, usually a maximum of four people. It is generally opened to share expenses concerning a household; those expenses may include to pay bills, to fund a business, etc. Sometimes it is opened to lend financial aid to somebody.

Now here is something you need to know about a joint account. It is advised to open a joint account with someone you know and trust. This is because if you open a joint account with someone, the person automatically has the right to deposit money into that account, withdraw cash from that account or even close that account without your knowledge or permission. Also, you will share in repaying some debts like a bank overdraft that is incurred by your joint account holder. In addition to that, having a joint account usually complicates tax issues and may cause complications during a divorce for couples. Read on to find out who owns the money in a joint bank account.

Funds in a joint account are usually shared 50 -50 between the account owners. Therefore, if you want to open a joint account, you should not only trust your joint account holder but you should also be knowledgeable about how he/she spends money. You should even know how much he/she makes money and how often the money is made. Now let us look at how to open a joint bank account.

How to open a joint bank account.

The process of opening a joint bank account is not so different from the process of opening a personal bank account. Of course, you and your joint owner should be present in the bank to open a joint bank account. Next, you and your joint account owner will be given a form and asked to fill in the necessary details. After which you will be asked to show proof of address or a utility bill. Also, proof of identification will be requested. This may include your driver’s license, national identity card, voter’s card, or any other government-approved identity. 

Afterward, the terms of the joint account will be written and signed by the joint account holders. These terms may include how the money will be shared among surviving owners if an account holder dies, what will happen if your relationship with an account holder ends, who amongst you is responsible for paying bank overdraft, and so on. 

Joint Bank Account Rules: Who Owns What?

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Every joint account owner owns an equal share of the money in a joint account, except when it is stated otherwise in the account agreement.  The share of each account holder doesn’t depend on how much each holder deposits or how often he/she deposits money. One of the account holders may be termed the “primary holder”; however, that doesn’t change how much each account holder owns. 

Any of a joint account holder may close the account anytime, except something that restricts this act is written in the account agreement. This is why opening a joint account requires a lot of trust between the account holders. Thankfully, your joint account holder can not remove you or add another account holder without your permission. Also, in some banks, your joint account holder will not be permitted to transfer all the money in the account without your consent. The excesses and truancy of a joint account holder can be put in check by consistently checking accounts and approving of automatic joint account notifications. Have you ever thought of what happens if one joint account owner dies? Well, wonder not, read on and find out for yourself.

What happens if a joint account holder dies?

How the money in a joint account is shared depends on the terms of the agreement that was signed by the account holders when the account was being opened. Once again, make sure you trust your joint account owner and read through your account agreement before you place your signature. How the surviving account holders share the money in a joint account can either be “right of survivorship” or “tenancy in common.” 

If the terms of a joint account agreement read “right of survivorship,” then your joint account holder will take 100% of your joint account funds on the occasion of your death. If all the owners of a joint account die, then 100% of the account funds go to the account beneficiaries. The names of joint account beneficiaries are usually written when the joint account is opened. Therefore, if you agree to the right of survivorship with your joint account holder, then if you die, your funds will be theirs.

If, however, the term of agreement of a joint account reads “tenancy in common.” Then, on the occasion of the death of one of the account owners, his/her share of the money is distributed according to his will. If the deceased account owner doesn’t have a will, his share of the account will go to the state law. A death certificate of the deceased must be presented before any of the terms of the agreement are carried out. On an occasion where the right of survivorship is used, the surviving account holder can change the account beneficiaries and the entire terms of the joint account agreement. 


Opening a joint account is advantageous because it makes it easy for couples to manage household expenses. A joint account also yields more interest for the account holders because the money in it is usually much. On the other hand, its disadvantages come when there is no trust between the account holders. If your fellow joint account owner has depts., his/her creditors could seize the joint account. In addition to that, if your joint account owner incurs a bank overdraft, you will take part in repaying the bank. And if you have a personal account in the bank, money can be transferred from your account to your joint account by the bank, to pay off your debts. 

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