Preparing your Bank Account for your Death or Incapacity
Your last will and testament works just fine in Georgia to pass your bank account after your death. Maybe you want more flexibility, though. Banks generally make it easy and cheap to prepare your account for times you can’t manage your own affairs or to pass money at your death.
Management During LifeYou might want someone in place to handle your finances in case your health declines. Only a durable general power of attorney conveys the amount of authority a trusted assistant would need to manage all your financial affairs. If you just need someone to pay bills and manage your banking, though, you can simply change the designation on your bank account. Naming someone a joint owner of your account conveys essentially unlimited authority over the account. Your joint owner can pay bills or write checks from the account as easily as you can. A joint owner could also empty the account and blow the money as easily as you could, so only give such authority to someone you trust beyond question. If you want to give someone more limited authority over your account, make that person an authorized signer on the account. An authorized signer can only access money in the account for your purposes or benefit. You should still entrust this power only to someone you trust - someone could still abuse this power over your account.
Passing at DeathDubbing someone a joint owner of your account sets that joint owner up to receive the account contents at your death. Georgia law will presume you intend your joint owner to remain the account's owner after your death. You can prevent your joint owner from taking the account after your death by making this intention clear, but people commonly use joint accounts to pass assets outside of probate. The obvious drawback to this approach is surrendering half the control of your account while you're still around to use it. Passing an account after your death doesn't require naming a joint owner, though. You can simply let the account pass to a person of your choice when you die by adding a pay on death designation to the account. This designation is just what it sounds like: when you pass away, the person you named can collect the assets in the account without the assets passing through probate. None of the options discussed here is a substitute for a comprehensive last will and testament. But knowing the options your bank offers can spell less worry and more efficiency in your planning process. Cherish your flexibility.