A Boutique Trusts & Estates Law Firm

Joint Ownership Just for Convenience Can Be Perilous

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015


It is common to see an asset transferred into joint name solely for the convenience of the original owner. The unintended consequences of joint ownership, however, can lead to unpleasant surprises.

The fact pattern is familiar: an aging relative may ask you to be a co-owner of her bank account so that you can help write her checks or can access her money if she becomes disabled. Or, a parent may transfer his or her residence into joint name with a child so that ownership will pass to the child upon the parent’s death without having to go through probate.

The pitfalls, however, are as unfamiliar as they are perilous.

First, a transfer into joint name may unintentionally result in a completed gift to the co-owner. For federal gift and estate tax purposes, adding a child’s name as a joint owner of a house results in a taxable gift of one-half of the current fair market value of the house. The original owner may be required to file a gift tax return and, in extreme cases, pay gift tax.

Second, adding a co-owner exposes the asset to the co-owner’s creditors. If the child who co-owns your house is forced into bankruptcy or loses a hefty lawsuit, the child’s creditors can take the child’s half of your house.

Third, if a child co-owns your bank account and later becomes disabled, the child’s attorney-in-fact or guardian steps into the child’s shoes. The bank will not be able to prevent the attorney-in-fact or guardian from drawing your account down to $0.

Fourth, joint ownership may unintentionally interfere with your estate plan. You may have wanted nothing more than assistance from the child who lives closest to you, but if you add your child to your bank account as a joint owner with right of survivorship, you have also just given the entire account to that child, effective upon your death. The account will not be divided equally among your children upon your death, even if your will specifically calls for that result.

So before casually adding a child’s name to one of your assets, make sure you understand the options and know what you are getting yourself into.


For Immediate Release

Contact: Jane Frankel Sims


Contact: Frank Campbell


Sims & Campbell Estates and Trusts

Frankel Sims Law and Holden & Campbell
Merge to Form Sims & Campbell

Firm will offer comprehensive Trusts & Estates services through offices in Towson and Annapolis

TOWSON, Md. (April 26,2019)  Frankel Sims Law and Holden & Campbell have jointly announced the merger of their firms to create a boutique Trusts & Estates law firm providing comprehensive services in the fields of Estate Planning, Estate Administration, Trust Administration and Charitable Giving. The combined firm will be named Sims & Campbell and have offices in Towson, Md. and Annapolis, Md.  Jane Frankel Sims and Frank Campbell will lead and hold equal ownership stakes in the firm.

Sims & Campbell will have 9 attorneys and 15 legal professionals that handle every facet of estate and wealth transfer planning, including wills, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, estate and gift tax advice, and charitable giving strategies.  The firm will focus solely on Trusts & Estates but will serve a wide range of clients, from young families with modest resources to ultra-high net worth individuals.  This allows clients to remain with the firm as their level of wealth and the complexity of related estate and tax implications change over time. 

“By joining forces, we have expanded our footprint to conveniently serve clients in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia” said Jane Frankel Sims.  We are seeing some of the greatest wealth transfer in our country’s history, and we want to continue to be on the leading edge of helping our clients maintain and enhance their family’s wealth.  In addition, we aim to serve our clients for years to come, and the new firm structure will allow Sims & Campbell to thrive even after Frank and I have retired.”    

“Jane and I have always admired each other’s firms and recognized the need to provide even greater depth and breadth of focused expertise to help families amass and protect their wealth from generation to generation,” said Frank Campbell.  “Now we have even greater capabilities to make a real difference for our clients.” 

The Sims & Campbell Towson office is located at 500 York Road, on the corner of York Road and Pennsylvania Avenue in the heart of Towson.  The Annapolis office is currently located at 716 Melvin Avenue, and is moving to 181 Truman Parkway in August, 2019.  For more information, visit www.simscampbell.law.