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What is a Joint Account?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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Whenever a bank opens a new savings or checking account for a customer, his or her name is listed as the sole authorized user of that account. If two or more individuals want to share access to the same account, however, they need to open a joint account. Any of the parties listed as a joint owner of the account can make deposits, write checks, or withdraw cash. In most cases, this type of account is opened by individuals with a close family or business relationship, such as parents and children, married or unmarried couples, or business co-owners. Some participants can restrict access by requiring two signatures on checks or withdrawal slips.

A joint account is considered to be riskier than two separate accounts, but many people find that pooling their income into a common account makes bill paying easier. Married couples with dual incomes may open an account together for routine expenses and individual accounts for other obligations. Elderly parents may consider opening an account with their adult children in order to pay household bills or to avoid probate court complications after death.

One aspect of a joint account is the right of survivorship. If two people open an account and one dies, the other party is usually entitled to the remaining balance of that account. Other types of individual accounts may be subject to probate court restrictions, which can keep much-needed funds out of the hands of survivors for months or years.

Those who open an account together should have the understanding that the other partner will always have the right to use all of the money in that account. This is why such accounts should be limited to people who have complete trust in each other. Both account holders need to keep track of current balances, deposits, and outgoing expenses. All parties can be held liable for overdrafts and bounced checks, unless one party is restricted by the "two-signature" requirement.

Young couples considering marriage or living together need to discuss the pros and cons of this type of banking because a joint account carries more risk than individual accounts. If one party has substantial loan obligations or automatic deductions, the other party sharing the account should be comfortable with the situation. Creditors view a joint account as they would an individual account, so funds can be legally deducted even if only one party actually owes the debt. An elderly account holder should also be comfortable with the fact that the other party can withdraw all of the funds at any time without prior notice. These accounts work best when both parties have established a solid level of trust between them.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to SmartCapitalMind, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By anon343370 — On Jul 29, 2013

If I take money out of a joint account with my mother, do I have to pay taxes?

By anon342087 — On Jul 17, 2013

On a joint savings account with an elderly relative, do you need both Social Security numbers on the account to be a 50/50 partner, or is only one needed -- that of the elderly relative? And is the younger person able to withdraw up to 50 percent of that money without penalty?

By anon331965 — On Apr 25, 2013

If I take money out of a joint account with my mother, do I have to pay taxes?

By anon329337 — On Apr 09, 2013

I have an account under my mother's name that allows her to put money into my checking account. Can she see every time I take money out or put it in?

By anon328934 — On Apr 06, 2013

If a check bounces on a joint account and the check is signed by one party, do you sue the person who signed the check or both parties?

By anon293587 — On Sep 26, 2012

What is the difference between having the word "or" between the names on a account rather than "and?"

By anon276321 — On Jun 23, 2012

In a joint account, which one is superior? The first name or the second name? Is it valid for the second name to block the account for any transaction by oral or written application? Is it compulsory that two persons on a joint account will share that fixed amount equally?

By anon270213 — On May 21, 2012

I am a joint owner of three CD's with a close male friend. He passed away in March and I can't remember what bank they are on. All three are $1,000 each. How do I go about finding this?

By anon256937 — On Mar 24, 2012

What is the difference between a primary and co owner in a joint account? How I can protect myself? My husband wants to be a co owner in a joint account and I am the primary. I have my children. I need to be secure. Please advise.

By anon253552 — On Mar 09, 2012

If you have an account with your father is it possible for him to restrict your access and make it impossible to withdraw money? The two-signature thing aside, or is that the only way?

By edlee08 — On Mar 05, 2012

My sister has a joint account with my mother some years back. Can she just transfer some money out of the account without my Mother's knowing? Can we ask her to account for it?

By anon248432 — On Feb 17, 2012

Can I remove half of the funds from a joint banking and mutual fund accounts that my husband and I have in a family trust?

He threw me out of the house over a year ago (our two adult daughters live there scot free), my pay checks have been going into our bank account as he promised to buy me out, and needed to cover mortgage payments so my credit wouldn't be ruined. This hasn't happened so I proposed to withdraw half our funds.

He is off buying big screen televisions, stereos, running up credit bills, spending and I want to preserve half of the value in the accounts before the accounts are bled down.

I got the forms to move half of the mutual funds to a new account and he won't sign. my husband spoke to the trust attorney and he emailed me to say I can't move because of "Major restrictions. You need to talk to her. Until you and I have some form of separation or divorce agreement in place no funds should be transferred." That's her opinion, not mine, and it has major impact.

By devilly — On Jan 21, 2012

If you want to open a joint account with your sibling who is under age and you're 18 and older and both are still under your parent's roof, by the law can they claim the money as theirs?

By anon183572 — On Jun 05, 2011

Can joint account setup with no signing authority for children and still avoid probate?

By anon156537 — On Feb 27, 2011

Can I know the maximum of how many people can open a joint account?

By anon125020 — On Nov 08, 2010

if one party dies can one possess all the property?

By anon55978 — On Dec 11, 2009

i want to open a joint account in a bank. what are the documents required?

By jadi — On Oct 22, 2009

My wife and I are separated. We have a joint account in which my savings and my wife's salary was deposited. We also bought a car from the amount from joint account. Now my wife is claiming to all the amount of her salary and the car through a lawsuit.

By pollick — On Sep 22, 2009

Many banks are reluctant to approve any request which denies equal access to a joint account. If a person honestly wants to sever financial ties with a joint account holder, the bank will often suggest opening up a new account and closing the former one. Sometimes a bank can create password protection in order to limit access to certain account functions, such as electronic fund transfers. Because all members of a joint account are considered equal, it is not generally considered a crime for one member to withdraw the entire balance if he or she chooses. This is a risk joint account holders must assume whenever they agree to open such an account.

By anon42543 — On Aug 21, 2009

Should the branch manager of the bank approve the request of one of the members of joint account which is that another member should no longer be allowed to effect withdrawals from the savings account?

By obitjarc — On Jun 17, 2009

If a joint account has $200,000 in the account and I take all the money can I be charged with a crime?

By anon24183 — On Jan 08, 2009

my friend had joint account with her husband but they don't live with each other now. they separated and she needs money now. is she allowed to take money from bank?

By honeynotvine — On Dec 29, 2008

Please tell me a bank or investment company offering a joint money market account requiring both joint account holders to sign a check or document in order to withdraw money every time from this joint account.

By geemoney60 — On Nov 06, 2008

what word is good to use when opening a bank account with my older parents. like "he or she, or, "she and he" when opening the account. i also want to know if these word make a difference as far as probate?

By insaniegirl — On Nov 05, 2008

if you have a joint account of a fixed account for a period of time, can any one of the parties stop the account before the lapse of that period of time, without the signature of the other party?

By ravikishore — On Dec 19, 2007

Can I know the maximum of how many people can open a joint account?

By anon2696 — On Jul 22, 2007

are both parties required to live at the same address?

By dwayne — On May 07, 2007

i was wondering how many people can be in a joint account?

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick

As a frequent contributor to SmartCapitalMind, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
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