Singleness Defines Rules

Whether never married or formerly married, your singleness defines the rules. You are a keeper because you can own everything yourself, no fuss, no muss. All you need is a reliable friend or relative to hold your durable (or springing) power of attorney and your health care proxy. That person could write checks on your bank account, manage your investments, and deal with your doctors if you were incapable (say, in a coma after the auto accident, God forbid).

That’s when you are young. When you age, you may not be quite so independent and sometimes ownership enters in. For example, you might give half of your house to your son and his family if they will live there with you. Or you might put your niece’s name on your bank account if she helps you do your taxes and pay your bills. If your son is a good egg and your niece is a doll, co-ownership can work.

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But what if your son gets a new job and moves? The house might have to be sold to give him the money to buy a new one. What if he gets divorced? His have of your house might have to be divided with his ex-wife. What if your nice niece falls for a bounder who persuades her to nip a bit of your money? A co-owner of a bank account can take every penny unless you specifically require both signatures for withdrawal, which, for daily bills, gets tiresome. You can sue a co-owner for withdrawing more than he or she deposited but the last thing you want, late in life, is to get tangled up in lawsuits with your relatives.

You can escape from a co-owned bank account that you have come to regret just by taking your money out. But it is a lot harder to get back your house once you have given half of it away. With a house, you might also get into a fight over who should live there or how much to spend on repairs to get more information read more. Then there is the fairness issue. A joint owner with right of survivorship gets the property, regardless of what it says in your will or trust. Say, for example, that your will leaves everything equally to your daughter, Tammis, and son, David. Then you add David to your bank account. He gets every penny of it when you die.

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