Mrs. Wilson has two children – Jim, who lives locally and is the “go-to” person when she needs help, and Susan who lives out of state. Mrs. Wilson wanted to review her Will to ensure that both of her children would inherit equally. Upon review of her assets, it was discovered that Mrs. Wilson had added Jim as a joint owner on all of her accounts – just for convenience and so that Jim would have access to her money to pay her bills in an emergency or should she become incapacitated. What she didn’t realize is that Jim would automatically inherit ALL of her assets as the joint owner of the accounts, despite what her Will stated, leaving Susan out entirely.
This happens all the time. Many people title their homes, bank accounts and other assets jointly with another person for convenience or to ensure quick access. This simple set-up allows a surviving spouse, child or other beneficiary to inherit assets without the probate of a Will. However, be aware that the person named on that account will automatically inherit the whole account - - even if a Will says otherwise. The same is true for Trotten Trust accounts – accounts where an individual specifies that the account is “In Trust For” (“ITF”) a particular person. The beneficiary named on that account will inherit those assets regardless of what the Will states. If this happens to you, you may unintentionally disinherit a child or other beneficiary – and it won’t be known until it’s too late.
To avoid this potentially serious mishap, review title to all your bank accounts, stock certificates, retirement assets, insurance policies and the deed to your home. Execute a Power of Attorney to provide someone you trust with access to your assets instead of naming them on your accounts.