If my name is on mom's checking account is her money safe from the courts after she dies?

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My Mom does not have a Living Will. She has a POA,-my brother- an Advance Medical Directive, a DNR order, and a Will. My name and my brother. Mom is in the hospital and rehab w/ a broken hip. She will hopefully go back to assisted Living once she can walk again. She is 88. I am trying to figure out her finances before she dies and was told that if my name was on her checking account her money would be safe from the courts and we could proceed with her wishes outlined in her Last Will & Testament. I want to make sure I am doing the right things to keep her estate out of the hands of lawyers and courts.

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I assume estate taxes are not an issue, since that only affects those with more than $5 million in assets. Gift taxes similarly. Thus, I wouldn't worry about gift or estate tax issues related to joint accounts, though amitebird is technically correct.

I think you're most concerned that you can have access to the funds immediately following your mother's death, and a joint account will allow you to do just that. Note, however, that her will only covers accounts in her her sole name, e.g., not joint accounts. So if her will says "All my assets go equally to my children," and you are the only one on the bank account with her, then the money in the joint bank account will pass to you alone and not to your siblings. If this is what your mother intends, that's fine. If not, it could cause family disputes.

As for whether the creditors of your mother can reach the joint bank account after her death, note that this varies from state to state. In many states, the creditors are simply out of luck and cannot attach the account of a deceased joint owner.
My sisters and I are on all of the accounts. My sister died recently and the money on these joint accounts were no problem at all. Her next of kin took the death certificate to the bank and took her name off. I guess if they were shysters they could have claimed the money, but Mother is the principal owner of the account. How would you pay the parent's bills if you are not on the account?
My mother's lawyer told my sister and me to have both our names on all Mom's accounts and when she passes, the accounts revert to us without going through probate. He said it is perfectly legal. Mom's SS check goes into the joint checking account and I pay all her bills from that account. I have access to her savings and transfer money into the checking from savings every month, as her SS and pension are not enough to pay the monthly cost of the NH.
if you want to keep it out of the hands of lawyers and courts AFTER Mom dies, then you need the advice of an estate planning lawyer BEFORE she dies! It is money well spent when you have everything in order beforehand and you are not struggling with conflicts and debts and probates when you are grieving. Depending on the amount of money that exists a Trust might be your best avenue. But again, get the right advice for your state from a professional.
In the county where I need to register my mother's will I was told that since my mother had set up a family trust 15 years ago and had transferred everything that she owned into that trust, naming me the executor/trustee upon her death and since I was already on her account at her credit union that I did not have to change anything. I was also told to send to them the signed copy of her will, a photo copy of the trust and that I do not have to go through probate nor set up an Estate account at a bank. I am to handle all bills that come in, and to follow the directives of the Trust as she had written which is to give X amount of money to her church and divide the rest between us 4 children. At some point I will need a CPA to help file taxes. I hope that it goes as easily as the lady at the court said it should.
I have the same situation and recently asked attorneys if I was doing anything that might cause problems later. This is what they said:
Because mom can withdraw the total amount of funds at any time, the IRS does not yet consider this a gift. Any amounts you withdraw are considered a gift. I'd be careful to not use your name on withdrawals, even if you intend to spend the money on mom. The account will be included in mom's estate for tax and creditor purposes unless you could prove you deposited 1/2 (Or, whatever percentage.) of the money yourself. If you would die first, it would be included in your estate; except for the fact mom could prove she deposited the entire amount.

The two major problems with this method of estate "planning" is that if you owe someone money (Either a normal creditor or because of you injuring someone.), the funds would be available to pay them from the account. Then, you would have a gift tax return if the amount was large enough as well. The other problem is that the money will go to the joint "owner", even if the will were to state differently on the death of the joint owner. (We presume will be mom.)

The other suggestion of course, was to ask a lawyer in your mother's state as all states are different.
You really should not have your name on your Mom's checking account. It's best to have a separate checking account and to use a durable power of attorney for finances - that way bills can be paid by the POA.

Another problem with this is if Medicaid monies were ever needed, your name is on this account and that could have an effect on whether or not she would qualify.

I'm not an attorney but it's best to have a trust rather than just a will - the will can be put INTO the trust. A trust does not have to go through probate in most states, so you may want to look into that.

Best wishes on the recovery of your Mom.
andcind, here in NY my MIL had life estate and only about $15K left in savings when she died. She was one month away from needing Medicaid. When she died we could not find the original Will. So hubby filled out a probate form called "Voluntary Administrator of Small Estate". The county court filing fee was only $1.00. That was all he needed to function as executor.
Your siblings must be really petty. Legally the money is yours, mallory. My mother has my name on two accounts -- a big one and a little one. I am going to split the big one, but keep the little for costs I know will come. Some debts, e.g. credit card and funeral reception cost, live on after people die. It's nice to have some money left so they can just be paid and not have to go through Probate. If I remember right, it took about $2000 to pay things when my father died. It was nice to square things away quickly.
bbutvidas, all their assets count. Do not attempt to move money out of their names, all that will get you is a rejected Medicaid application.

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