A joint bank account is a big commitment, even for a married couple. A joint account gives both spouses equal access to the money. Without proper communication and planning, couples can easily overspend and overdraft. However, getting out of a joint account is a challenge. At most banks, both parties must be present to close a joint account.
What Is a Joint Account?
A joint account is an account that can be accessed by two people. With a joint account, both parties can put money in, write checks and, perhaps most importantly, take money out. In order to set up a joint account, you and your spouse must open the account together. It is also possible to add your spouse to your account as an authorized user. Once you have a joint account, it is very difficult to limit your spouse's access. In some cases, you can require two signatures on checks or withdrawal strips. But this is rare and you will have to set it up with your bank specifically.
Closing a Joint Account
You cannot close a joint account unilaterally. In order to remove one person's name from an account, you will have to go to the bank together and show identification. Some banks will not allow you to ever take one name off a joint account -- you would have to close the account and open a new account.
If your spouse dies, you are entitled to all of the money left in the account. In that case, you would also be able to close the account. You will need to bring a death certificate to the bank to prove your spouse has died.
Though you cannot close a joint account without a spouse present, you can take your own name off the account. If you are getting a divorce, this precaution will protect you from monitoring the account or paying late fees if your spouse is constantly over-drafting. For most banks, you will need to go into the branch in person, prove your identity, then sign some paperwork. Additionally, either owner of the account could take out all of the money and open a new bank account.
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