Ownership of certain accounts is an important thing to know in the back of your mind if you jointly share one with another person. While both of you are alive, this means you jointly own that entire account.
For most joint accounts, these will be created by the bank as a “joint account with right of survivorship.” This means that when one account owner passes away, the other remaining party on that account will automatically be the full owner of any assets inside.
While some accounts carry automatic rights of survivorship, others do not. That’s why you should always check with your bank directly; many family members have discovered after the fact that what seems like minor paperwork issues can stall the transfer of an account.
Most things associated with the transfer of a joint account are simple, but there are aspects to consider for the person who will inherit the account. For example, any income earned by that account has tax consequences. The tax situation can get even more complex if other assets owned by the decedent are subject to probate or estate taxes, too.
The bottom line is that in cases where you’re properly assigned as the joint owner of the account, you should automatically assume ownership of the account in full.
If you have an account with joint owners but also other assets inside your probate estate, it’s up to you to make sure you’ve properly planned for those assets in terms of a transfer to beneficiaries. An estate planning lawyer in New Jersey can help you figure out what your comprehensive estate plan looks like and how to proceed to accomplish your individual goals.