One of the most common tasks handled by a power of attorney agent is the paying of bills and the writing of checks from a bank account. To do this, you’ll need to have your agent’s name added to your account, which is when you might mistakenly put this person on your account as a joint owner. Adding a name to an account and giving someone joint owner responsibilities with full authority to use the account as their own are two different things and you can find yourself in a financial mess if you’re not careful which one you do.
Adding a name to an account could just mean that the person is authorized under your power of attorney form to manage the account for you. However, if they are a full joint owner, this means they can to use the account on their own. This happens far too often, meaning that that account will immediately become the property of that person when you pass away regardless of what’s stated inside your will. This means:
- Your agent might get property that might have intended to pass on to him or her.
- Your property could be vulnerable to the liabilities and creditors belonging to that agent.
- Your estate administration can be greatly complicated even if the agent eventually understands the mistake and voluntarily distributes the account to beneficiaries.
After you complete your financial power of attorney, you’ll need to take this form to your bank. You want to make it clear when submitting this paperwork that you do not want to add your agent as a joint owner but rather under your power of attorney document. You should have a consultation with a New Hampshire and Maine estate planning attorney to understand all of the complex issues involved in the management of your financial affairs.