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Joint Bank Accounts & Property

Many people use joint titles on bank accounts and property as informal estate planning. While not wrong, this approach is risky. It lacks the formal instructions and legal protection offered by a power of attorney, will, or living trust. Jointly held property among spouses is common and rarely a problem. In contrast, adding an adult child or other relative or friend on the title as co-owner of your bank accounts or home could lead to loss of those assets. It can also interfere with the fair and intended distribution of your assets after your death, because a co-owner of jointly titled property typically has no legal obligation to share that property after your death. If you choose this approach, do so with great care and with the understanding that it is very risky outside of a marital relationship.

Adapted from Utah Commission on Aging Financial Security Guide (2007), published by AARP.

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