A joint bank account is one that is shared by two people. They are a convenient way for couples, business partners, and parents to manage shared expenses. With a joint account, both account holders have full access to the account.
However, there may come a time when having a joint bank account no longer serves you and your relationship. Because joint accounts are the responsibility of both account holders, ideally the other account holder will agree with you to end your banking relationship.
Whatever the reasons, closing a joint bank account is a pretty simple process. As we’ll see, taking certain steps can help you close a joint bank account and streamline your banking with ease.
Why close a joint bank account?
There could be several reasons behind someone’s decision to close a joint account. Let’s look at some of the most common motivations:
Breakup or Divorce
A majority of joint account owners are couples or spouses. Naturally, one of the biggest factors behind the closing of a joint bank account tends to be breakup or divorce. When a couple decides to go their separate ways, it’s understandable that sharing their personal finances through a joint bank account no longer seems beneficial.
Closing a joint bank account can help simplify your finances and make it easier for both account holders to move on after a breakup.
Irresponsible Joint Account Holder
Irresponsible or disrespectful use of joint funds is a common reason for joint account closure. When sharing finances with another person, trust and respect are vital. Nobody wants to deal with their hard earned money being spent flippantly.
When the other account holder is consistently overspending, closing a joint bank account may be necessary. Even if the disagreements around spending are relatively small, at the end of the day closing a joint account can save a lot of stress.
Both parties really need to be on the same page for joint bank accounts to work.
Closing a joint bank account doesn’t always mean the end of a financial partnership. It could simply be due to a change in someone’s banking preferences. For example, a couple might choose to close a joint checking account to open a new one at a different bank or credit union.
In other cases, the parties may have different preferred financial institutions. They might then simply decide to maintain two separate accounts rather than hold a joint bank account that one person isn’t satisfied with.
A couple or partnership might decide to close a joint bank account to avoid the monthly maintenance fees. This makes sense, especially if you’re not using the account that often in your daily life.
Sometimes people will close joint accounts to avoid or reduce legal liability. If one joint account holder has unpaid debts, for example, all funds in a joint account could be vulnerable. Or if they are sued because of their involvement in a car accident, then all the money could be liable to seizure.
Closing a Joint Bank Account: Key Steps
If you’ve decided to close a joint bank account, you might be wondering where to start. Read the steps below to find out how to close a joint bank account with ease.
1. Open a New Bank Account
Your first action should be to open a new account if you don’t already have your own. This can take a little time, so it’s good to get this done first.
A new, active account under your own name will help make the transition from a joint bank account much easier. You’ll also want to make sure you have a way to pay for any bills that come up while your old account is closed.
When you’ve decided which bank or credit union you’d like to open a new account with, ask if they have a switch kit. This is a useful checklist that can make the transition from one bank account to another smoother.
While you are in transition, try to use your old joint account as little as possible.
2. Clear Funds
Before closing an old joint bank account, don’t forget to remove any remaining funds. This is to ensure that both joint bank account owners can walk away after closing the account with some degree of financial independence.
Once you’ve decided how the money will be divided between you, you can empty the account. Simply withdraw it all in cash or have it transferred to your respective accounts.
3. Cancel Automated Transactions
One thing you don’t want to forget is to cancel any automated transactions on your joint bank account. Any bills, rent or subscriptions that are automatically charged to your joint account will have to be canceled and rerouted to an individual account.
You may need to take the time to contact various vendors or companies to change your payment information. Ideally, both joint account holders can review this information together.
4. Officially Close Your Joint Account
Depending on your bank, you may have to visit a branch in person to close your account. The process of closing a joint bank account is simple, but there may be slight differences.
You’ll want to find out the requirements beforehand. It’s likely that you’ll need to provide at least some personal identifying documents that you also used to open the account. Talk to your bank to find out exactly what you need to officially close a joint bank account.
While closing a joint bank account is simple, there are also peripheral considerations you’ll want to keep tabs on. As a joint owner of a checking or savings account, it’s in your best interest to ensure things are done right, as far as possible.
Ask for Confirmation from Your Bank
After going through the process of closing the account, it’s always a good idea to double-check and ask your bank to confirm. If for some reason the account was not actually closed, then you may be liable for further charges and overdraft fees.
Confirming that the account is closed is the best way to ensure things are wrapped up completely.
Remember that both you and your account co-owner are equally liable for any penalties that are charged to your joint bank account. If one of the other account holders has been spending irresponsibly, you’ll need to think ahead about how to handle additional charges.
Your bank isn’t likely to close the account until any outstanding fees have been paid.
Watch for Deposits
Once the account has been closed, you’ll want to keep your eyes on your finances. If a deposit were to go into your old joint account, that could encourage the bank to reopen your account. You would then be liable for any monthly service fees for that account.
How to Close a Joint Bank Account FAQs
Can one person close a joint bank account without the other person?
Yes. Most banks will allow the closure of joint bank accounts from only one of the co-owners. As long as you can prove you are an account owner, you should have no problem closing a joint bank account on your own.
It’s always a good idea to at least notify the other account holders of your intention before closing a joint account. They may have payments due or charges outstanding that need to be sorted before closure.
What if the breakup is not amicable?
You may want to seek the guidance of a divorce attorney or mediator if you and your partner can’t come to an agreement when closing a joint bank account.
Do I have the legal right to the money in a joint account?
This depends on your situation. Remember that just because a bank allows you to withdraw or spend funds from a joint account, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have legal entitlement. If you have gone through a divorce, a divorce decree might state that only certain funds are legally yours.
When it comes to your own personal finance, banking should be working for you. If you decide that a joint bank account is no longer serving you, making a clean break and opening a new account can be a smart move. Taking the right steps will also ensure that your old account doesn’t turn up any surprises down the line.
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