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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 also have my name on my Mom's checking account and was told that in the event that she dies the money would just be like it was mine and I would then use it to pay any expenses then share what was left with my sister. My Mom will be 89 in November and is in good health except for the mild dementia. She still lives at home alone, her choice. My sister and I drive her wherever she needs or wants to go. I am also her POA and she also has an out of hospital DNR and a regular DNR, My sister and I both know my Mom's wishes in case of her death. She has a Lifeline button that will detect if she should fall and notify the authorities and me. We have done everything possible to keep her safe and in her own home and will continue to do so as long as possible. My exceptance of her decline in mental health has been the hardest to do but with the help of a my sister and a book titled "Loving Someone Who Has Dementia" by Pauline Boss, I hope to help Mom have the best of the rest of
her life that she so deserves. Find yourself an Eldercare Attorney to her help with any legal questions that you might have.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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You should make sure that the checking account has the right of survivorship in case one of you dies or else it will be frozen and you can't remove anything from it until the will is probated. At any rate, the will will be in the courts and the courts will will insist that all bills and debts be paid out of her funds. Having your name on it won't help. If she needs Medicaid at some point , they will take it no matter if your name is on it.
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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?
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i have a couple of observations. a checking account should be a joint account with survivor benefits. simply having your name on the account may not suffice.
my second observation; a va advocate told me the other day that as we apply for aid and attendance they will also prepare some kind of documents for us to completely evade probate. i told her a will was in place, she said that would not suffice and that probate costs time and money. sorry i cant tell you what shes proposing but im guessing the civilian equivalent could be done by anyones attorney. when i do find out whats required ill sure let everyone know..
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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.
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The word "avoid" is probably better than "evade". Nothing you are likely to be doing is shifty or illegal -- it's just saying "everything is in order, we have everything taken care of, so there is no need to put a 1 year freeze on the estate". Nothing illegal, nothing immoral, just pre-organizing things hopefully LONG before someone dies.
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My Mom has two checking accounts. My brothers legal name is on one of them. Does this mean that my brother will get all of the money when she passes in this particular checking account? My Mom does have a living trust set in place. I guess my brother and I split everything.
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A jpint checking accounts pass directly to the survivor/s of that account by passing probate or separate trusts. They are none as POD (paid on death) accoi.ts. The answer to your question is yes.
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Elviscue,

Yes, your brother will get all of the money from the account with his name on it when your mother dies. Do you know the details of how the trust is set up?
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No I do not. Mom just says we split everything.
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Do either of you know where a copy of the trust is? My mother never told me where her will was. It was quite a search to find it, but I did.
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I hope it is not in a safety deposit box because no one but the executor of the estaate will be able to get into that after she dies.
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I am my brothers power of attorney and am also on his checking account. He has one son, who we all agree that once my brother passes away, will get everything in the house. The house has been quit claimed to me with a life estate back to my brother. There are no bills and really no real assets. Does the court system get involved in this.
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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.
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my name is on my mothers checking account. Most of the money was hers. I have POA over her finances and where she resides (which at the time is with me). Is half of her account considered mine or do the courts get involved?
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Well, since this posted Mother has passed away. Our attorney told us that all funds needed to be transferred to an Estate account.

But, mother had the accounts, payable on death. the banks cut us a check.
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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.
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I've worried about this. I am joint on my mother's checking and savings. Her will has all money being divided evenly among 4 heirs and I do want to follow the will. I do not have POA for finances, but she was willing to add my name to the accounts so I could manage her finances. (Don't ask me the logic, since there wasn't any.) I have worried what if I get in an accident and get sued. I know her money would be at risk. I've also worried about how to divide the account among the four heirs if there is money left when she dies. If there is a lot of money, there could be gift and income taxes if I simply wrote everyone a check. I thought instead about having the executor (my brother) put the money in an estate account. It would probably be better to pay probate than me pay gift taxes and them income taxes.

Nothing is sure in life but death and taxes. When they get twined in together it can sure be complicated.
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My dad is the primary account holder. He added my name to both the checking and savings accounts. The bank recently brought it to my attention that my name is only there to do legal transactions of depositing or withdrawals. She said that there is no beneficiary on the account. She said that if dad dies, the bank will freeze the account during probate. Once the court reveals ALL the heirs, the bank will proceed to dole out every heirs portion from dad's account. She strongly recommended that dad update his account if he wants a specific person to inherit.
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book, the bank did not dole out anything. (We are in NY) They moved all assets to an estate account and the Executor had to leave it there for a 7 month waiting period. He does pay bills for the estate from that. 7 months will be up on May 16th, at which time the Executor has to make the distributions and do a final tax return on the Estate. This is a small estate, less than $30 K.
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My sister and I are joint owners on all Mom's accounts. The lawyer said when she passes, the accounts become ours automatically without going through probate. Since the will leaves everything to my sister and me, with $5000 to each of our 3 daughters, we plan to just divide everything once the will is read and write checks to the girls. She has some funds in a living trust, and I'm assuming that does not go through probate either. We live in NY also.
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Book, you probably should see if you can get it changed to a POD (payable on death) account. I did that the first time I had to set up an account separate from my joint one with my husband.
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All the above answers are good. Also I noticed how long ago the question was posted. Thanks for posting a great question.
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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.
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My parents had me joint on their small local bank checking account, because I was their only local adult relative who did anything for them. They did not have the bulk of their money there by any means. Only about $6 or 8,000. They knew that after they both died it would become my money, and that was fine with them since I was the only one who would be available to them in like, 5 minutes. Of course, now that they are both gone, guess what the other 4 kids who never did anything, want some of that $8,000. so my advice to anyone who cares is, make sure you actually write a paragraph into your Will, that says that the small local checking account is joint with your local kids and make it perfectly clear, in your Will (not some extraneous letter or memo) that you want it to go to just that kid. Otherwise, you are leaving a huge headache for that one kid who has to decide if it is worth it to deal with all the gripes, or to divide a really dinky amount, 5 ways. And Lawyers who write these Wills ought to know better than to let these seemingly "small" details go by the wayside.
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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.
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If you are a beneficiary of an account, can a POA take you off as being a beneficiary of that account after death? The POA for my mom, unfortunately, is not looking out for her best interest financially, medically, or otherwise. It would not put it pass me if he & she (POAs) would transfer this $ into their own banks.
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