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Adding a Name to a Bank Account Without Consent

My parents have always had separate checking/savings accounts. Recently, my mother suffered a prolonged illness that incapacitated her to the point where she was no longer able to write checks or deal with financial matters. She has recovered and advised me that my father went to her bank while she was ill and asked that his name be added to both her checking and savings accounts so that he can draw checks and monies from each account as needed. Can a spouse add himself/herself to the other spouse’s accounts without that person's consent?

Unless there was a power of attorney involved, a bank should not allow one spouse to add his or her name to the other spouse's accounts. You don't indicate whether your father was successful in gaining access to your mother's accounts. Even if he had the best of intentions, using the accounts without your mother's authorization could cause your father and the bank legal problems.

In some cases, accounts are maintained separately for estate planning or other purposes. In such cases, spouses should make some sort of contingency plan for situations such as your mother's. Setting that up legally (an attorney's guidance might be a good idea in some complicated financial arrangements) can avoid what we'd like to believe was a last-minute, if ill-advised, attempt to help your mother out with her financial matters.

Published on 5/30/07