Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
If I want my son to be able to manage my financial accounts while I am undergoing treatments, is it best to put him as a joint owner of the accounts? Is there a temporary way to do that?
William J. Wahl III, Financial Advisor at Rockwell Associates and Friend of OncoLink, responds:
Depending on the types of financial accounts you have, converting to joint ownership is typically not the most effective or efficient way to achieve this objective.
Most non-qualified accounts (checking, savings, money market, etc.) do not allow you to simply add another name to it, creating a joint account. A “new" account would be opened and the assets transferred from your original account. To remove your son’s access to the assets later, you would need to transfer them back to a new individual account, which would now require his approval. Qualified accounts such as IRAs and 401ks do not allow for joint registrations.
Establishing a “Power of Attorney" is probably the best way of allowing your son temporary management authority of your financial accounts. A Power of Attorney can be drafted by an attorney for a nominal fee. (Find an attorney that charges a flat rate for this service and not an hourly rate.) This will allow your son access to any or all accounts you choose, and to act in your authority while it is in place. The POA is revocable at anytime at your discretion.
There could also be tax issues for your son if he's on the account, as opposed to being an agent in a power of attorney.
This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series, Legal & Financial Challenges Facing People with Cancer. View the entire transcript here.