February 2023.

Comment: “I don’t need a power of attorney. My spouse and I own everything jointly.”
It’s true, if you and your spouse own your bank account jointly, either one of you can sign a check or make a deposit, no questions asked. But that’s not all you might need to do for each other.
It takes both signatures to sell your car or your mutual funds, or to sell or refinance your house. Just because it’s owned jointly doesn’t mean that either one of you can act without the other.
If your spouse has dementia and you need to initiate or change distributions from his or her retirement plan, you have to sign your spouse’s name, and you can’t do that without a power of attorney. Just because you’re the beneficiary doesn’t mean you can control the account.
Sadly, we often have to file for guardianship – one spouse seeking guardianship of the other – all for lack of a simple power of attorney.

Comment: “My daughter is on all my accounts, so I don’t need a power of attorney.”
If your daughter is a joint owner of your accounts, you still need a power of attorney (see above), and you also need to consider that the “owner” in “joint owner” means just that. She owns your bank account, and while she might never take advantage of that power and use your money for her own needs and wants, her creditors won’t feel so constrained. It’s legally her money, and if she has an accident or loses her job and can’t pay her bills, her creditors can get into your account to pay themselves the money she owes them.
If your daughter is your agent under power of attorney, however, it’s not her money. It’s still your money, and she can only use your money for your needs. Her creditors can’t touch your money.


Attorney Tim Barkley
The Tim Barkley Law Offices
One Park Avenue
P.O. Box 1136
Mount Airy
Maryland 21771

 (301) 829-3778

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