A fellow attorney (and award-winning journalist) Deborah Jacobs authored the book, “Estate Planning Smarts: A Practical, User-Friendly, Action-Oriented Guide”. In her recent Forbes article titled “Estate Planning for Women (And the Men who Love Them)” she indicated the below question is a question every financially savvy woman should be able to answer.
Is there money in the bank?
In the process of dividing assets into “yours,” “mine” and “ours,” couples should make sure there is enough money to cover immediate expenses if one of them suddenly passes away. These reserve funds can be held in each of your separate accounts or in a joint one. Just be aware that when you die, your spouse or partner will probably not have access to your individual account right away, and you will each need the discipline to keep the fund flush. A better approach is to maintain a joint account designated for emergencies that can also be available for this purpose.
With bank and brokerage accounts, the most frequent form of joint ownership is joint tenancy with rights of survivorship. It is available to any two people who want to own assets together. Both owners have access to the assets during life, and when one joint tenant dies, the survivor immediately becomes the sole owner of the whole property, regardless of what the will says, or whether there is a will. These features make this type of ownership appealing both to spouses and other couples.
Despite these advantages, joint tenancy has a serious drawback: it exposes each owner to the other’s potential liabilities. Unmarried couples also need to be aware that state laws on joint tenancy for non-spouses may vary. Consult a lawyer who is familiar with the rules of the state where you live.
Questions like this one can often trigger even more questions in your mind. Please accept my invitation to schedule a meeting where we can discuss this topic and others that might be relevant to your estate planning. Give my office a call to set a meeting.