By Lauren Walsh,College Connect blogger
Growing up I always heard, “What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine.” I know it’s fairly common for married couples to have a joint bank account. Still, my fiancé Mark and I wanted to see if it was the right decision for us.
If we were going to have a joint account, it would be opened in both our names, we each would have access to it, and the account would hold both our salaries. We reviewed the logistics and talked over the advantages and disadvantages, and following is what we learned in the process.
A joint account could prove more convenient for us because:
We could pay household bills and rent from a single account instead of splitting up costs and writing two separate checks for each bill.
If one of us were unavailable to manage finances, the other could pay bills and take care of business for the family.
Joint accounts are smart in case of emergencies or tragedies because:
If Mark or I were to die and we had separate accounts, the money in the account of the deceased could get caught in the red tape of a probate court. With a joint account, the money would automatically become the property of the survivor, which would be important especially if children were involved.
One challenge of a joint account is that it requires a heightened level of trust between the two people sharing it. Each party needs to have absolute confidence in the other to be fiscally responsible and honest due to the legal ramifications that surround a joint account. For example:
The bank isn’t concerned with whose paycheck is bigger or whether there is just one paycheck growing the account. All money in a joint account is seen as just that—joint. It isn’t the bank’s job to keep track of who contributes what.
Mark and I each would have equal access and liability. If Mark is out writing bad checks around town, by law I will be liable for the returned checks, too. The same law applies if one of the joint account owners becomes the subject of a lawsuit. The law sees no separation in who owns the money.
If two joint account owners get divorced, the court typically divides the money between the owners, but not necessarily equally. If the divorce is not amicable, one party could drain the joint account while the divorce is pending, leaving the other party with nothing.
Make the Right Decision for You
Although having a joint account is probably the most logical arrangement for a married couple, it is certainly an important pact that should not be entered into lightly. I would never get a joint account with someone I thought might take advantage of the setup, but because I know Mark is trustworthy, he and I will be opening a joint account as soon as we are officially Mr. and Mrs.
If you and your partner are thinking of opening up a joint account together, have a conversation not only about if it is right for both of you, but also about how it will be managed so you can avoid overdrawing your account or encountering fees.