Co-Owned Bank Accounts and Divorce: Is Your Parent’s Money at Risk? Insights from a Modesto Estate Planning Lawyer

Modesto estate planning lawyerIt’s not uncommon for parents to add an adult child as a co-owner on their bank account. This arrangement often serves as a convenience, allowing the child to help manage finances or ensure easy access to funds in case of emergencies. However, what happens when that child is facing a divorce? Could the parent’s money be at risk? Our Modesto estate planning lawyer, Gina Leguria, sheds light on this complex issue.

Understanding Joint Ownership

When two or more individuals co-own a bank account, it typically means each person has equal rights to the account’s funds. In the event of disputes or legal complications like a divorce, there’s a potential that the entire account might be viewed as a marital asset, even if one party, such as the parent, contributed the majority or all of the funds.

Risks in Divorce Proceedings:

  1. Asset Division: In divorce proceedings, assets are usually classified as separate or marital. If it’s not convincingly demonstrated that the joint account should remain separate property, there’s a risk it could be split as part of the marital assets.
  2. Debt Payments: If the co-owner child or their soon-to-be-ex-spouse incurs significant debts, creditors could target the joint account for payment.

Protective Measures to Consider:

  1. Documentation: Maintaining meticulous records of all deposits, withdrawals, and the original source of the funds can help clarify the account’s nature. If most transactions and funds originate from the parent, it bolsters the argument that this account isn’t a marital asset.
  2. Reconfigure Account Ownership: It might be prudent to seek advice from a Modesto estate planning lawyer about altering the account ownership. Options could include removing the child’s name temporarily or setting up a protective trust.
  3. Separate Accounts: For added clarity and protection, consider establishing separate accounts for individual and shared expenses.
  4. Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreements: While not an immediate solution for the situation described, having these agreements in place can offer clarity on assets in the event of future marital discord.


The confluence of family finance and divorce proceedings is a complex landscape that requires careful navigation. If you or someone you know is grappling with concerns over a co-owned bank account during a divorce, prompt action and expert advice are essential.

As always, our experienced Modesto estate planning lawyer is here to offer invaluable insights and guidance. If you’re worried about jointly-held assets or need assistance with estate planning matters, please reach out by calling 209-416-0353. Prioritizing and protecting your family’s financial health and peace of mind is our foremost goal.



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