Bringing the Family (Financially) Together: How Joint Assets Work

Sharing a life with someone brings much joy and lasting memories. Spouses, children, parents, and partners. But sharing a life isn’t just about weddings or birthday parties; sometimes, it means sharing finances. To avoid unnecessary friction, it’s best to know what joint means in the legal and financial sense.

We’re all familiar with the joint bank account, usually (but not always) in the context of long-term partners or spouses. Joint is a legal term describing a transaction or agreement where two or more parties act in unison. This applies to many types of assets, not just bank accounts. Here are a few examples:

  • Joint accounts— two or more parties share a single account, such as a bank or brokerage account. In this case, the law considers both parties equal owners, no matter who started the account or contributed more money. Co-owners can spend or transfer funds to other accounts without the consent of the other account holder. Most joint accounts have survivorship rights, meaning that if one account holder dies, the other will automatically retain rights to the account funds.
  • Joint tenancies— two or more parties share equal shares of ownership in property with the same deed at the same time. This type of holding title is most common between husbands and wives and among family members since there are rights of survivorship, similar to joint accounts. This differs from a tenancy in common, whereby tenants may have different shares of ownership, which may be obtained at different times.
  • Joint annuities, such as joint and survivor annuities—insurance products that continue regular payments as long as one of the annuitants is alive. A joint and survivor annuity must have two or more annuitants. This is usually a wise choice for married couples who want to guarantee that, in the case of death, the surviving spouse receives regular income for life, though monthly payments are typically reduced by one-third or one-half for the surviving annuitant. 

The key thing to consider: holding assets jointly with one or more other parties essentially creates a single economic and legal unit, whereby the other person’s actions can affect your situation, and vice versa.

Multnomah Group is a registered investment adviser, registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Any information contained herein or on Multnomah Group’s website is provided for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies.   Investments involve risk and, unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed.  Multnomah Group does not provide legal or tax advice.  Any views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Multnomah Group or Multnomah Group’s clients.

Comment On This Article