Should you add a child as a signer on your bank account?

Some people come to my office having already added their child as an authorized signer on their bank account.  Others come to me after a parent dies and tell me that they are "on" their parent's bank account.  Others ask my advice on whether they should bring their child to the bank and add them as a signer. 

The concern that many parents have is that they want one or more children to have access to the parent's bank account so that if that parent gets sick, the child will be able to pay bills from the parent's account.  The parent does not want the account to be frozen, requiring a court proceeding or filing to get access to the funds.   There is a better way to accomplish that, and depending on your circumstances, a springing financial power of attorney may be the correct tool.   Please keep in mind this post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice.  You should contact a Wyoming estate planning lawyer to determine if this is the correct tool for you.  

Sometimes a child who is added as an authorized signer on a bank account of their parents mistakenly believes that they automatically become the owner of the bank account funds when the parent passes away.  You can see what the Wyoming Supreme Court said about that recently. 

If you add someone onto your account as a signer only, and not as a pay on death designation, those funds are still your funds only.  You did not make that signer an owner or a co-owner of the funds.  That must be done as outlined in the case above.  When you die, those funds will be part of your estate and should pass to your heirs, even though that authorized signer may have access to the account.  

If you would like to have a consultation with Gayla K. Austin, please call 307.200.1914.  Thank you.