If you are considering becoming a secondary signer on a joint account, you will need to follow certain rules. Typically, banks have general guidelines for authorized secondary signers. Since some banks may have additional rules specific to that institution, be sure to read the terms and conditions of the account agreement carefully.
Shared Checking Accounts
Many people grapple with the decision to share a checking account, especially when they get married, move in together or start a joint business venture. While you are the only one who can decide how to set up your account, make sure you are fully informed before you move ahead. Two or more owners can open a joint checking account, or the owner of an individual checking account can authorize one or more secondary signers. Technically, an account owned by an individual with an authorized secondary signer is categorized as an individual account by the bank.
Responsibilities of Secondary Signers
With a joint checking account with two owners, both individuals share account privileges and legal responsibility for the account. If an account owner adds you as a secondary signer, you have the same authority as the owner to make withdrawals and deposits, including signing checks, endorsing deposits, initiating wire transfers, and placing stop payment requests. However, the owner, not the secondary signer, is legally responsible for the account. You, as the secondary signer, will not be held responsible or have to reimburse the bank for any overdrafts or other bank fees.
Adding a Secondary Signer
If you are added as a secondary signer, most banks will require that you and the owner visit the local branch with proper identification and fill out a signature card. Some banks may allow you to make this account change over the phone, but still will make you and the account owner provide mutual verbal consent. Normally, banks do not allow owners to add an authorized signer online since the bank needs proof of written or verbal consent.
Removing a Secondary Signer
Unlike a joint checking account with co-owners, the owner of an account with a secondary signer can remove the signer from the account at any time. Obviously, this puts you, the secondary signer, at great risk if you are depositing your money into the account. You cannot access the account or your money once you are no longer an authorized signer. Make sure you trust the owner explicitly before you agree to this type of account arrangement.
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