Any account that has a co-owner with a right of survivorship, a payable on death beneficiary (P.O.D.) or a transfer on death (T.O.D.) designation will take precedence over the provisions in one's will. For example, Mom's husband is deceased and she has three children. Mom's wants her kids to split everything equally and drafts a will which gives everything equally to the kids. Mom puts her oldest daughter Sue on her bank accounts to assist her, if necessary, with the accounts. Mom's assets are $500,000.00 in bank accounts and a home worth $500,000.00. (The default title or ownership of an account when adding a name to it is generally as joint tenants with right of survivorship (J.T.W.R.O.S.) and that is how Mom's accounts were titled).
At Mom's death, Sue would automatically get the $500,000.00 in the bank and the three kids would share the $500,000.00 house equally--not what Mom wanted. If Sue were to get divorced or sued while Mom was alive, Sue's soon-to-be ex-husband could try and get at Mom's account as could Sue's other creditors. Again, not what Mom wanted. Sue could also legally withdraw and spend all of Mom's money.
Rather than putting Sue on the account as a joint tenant with right of survivorship, Mom could do one of two things: 1) Add Sue to the account only as having signature authority with no ownership rights or 2) Grant Sue a Power of Attorney authorizing Sue to act on Mom's behalf with regard to the account.
Mom could then name her children as equal beneficiaries or name her estate as the beneficiary. Using these techniques, Mom's assets go equally to the kids and she is not exposed to any of her children's creditors.
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