How to Change an Account From Joint to Individual at a Brokerage Firm

A change of registration can be done online or through the mail.

A change of registration can be done online or through the mail.

Online investing has made it easy to open and manage a brokerage account from the comfort of your home. As the registered owner, you are in control of the buys, sells and account funding. If you have a joint brokerage account and need to change the registration, that should be easy, too.

Paperwork, As Usual

Changing a registration on a brokerage account means turning it from a joint to an individual account, or vice versa, or otherwise making a change in ownership (from an individual to a trust account, for example). Your brokerage will require that both owners complete a form, sign and date it, and then submit it. The individual being subtracted from the account must give written permission for the change. Online broker E*Trade, for example, requires a Registration Change for Complete Investment Account. You can download this from the "Forms and Applications" page, then return it to the brokerage by mail.

Notarized Documents and Transfers

To remove an individual from a joint account, you might also have to submit a notarized statement signed by both parties. Some brokerages require that you close the joint account and open a new individual account with a new account number. In this case, you would also have to complete a form transferring assets to the new account. Scottrade, another online broker, has you do this with an Account Transfer Form, and advises that it needs seven to 10 business days to complete the transfer.

Trust, But Verify

Keep a copy of any forms you signed and returned. The brokerage should be able to complete the new registration within a few business days of receiving your paperwork. If you don't see a change in the online registration, call the customer service number and inquire on the status of your request. Check any account statements you receive for errors in the registration.

Taxes, Of Course

If you're moving from a joint to an individual account, there may be tax consequences. Assets no longer held jointly, and then sold, will mean capital gains or losses for the new individual owner, if a separate return is filed. The IRS also needs a full accounting of any income received from investments, which would no longer be attributable to both individuals on the old joint account. You still may pay income tax at the joint rate if you continue filing a joint return. However, community property laws in your state (if any) will govern legal title to assets acquired before and during the marriage.


About the Author

Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.

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