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Family Finances

Understanding Joint Accounts

Betterment joint accounts enable two people to share and progress toward investment goals together. We answer questions you have about our joint accounts.

Articles by Betterment Editors

By the Editorial Staff
Betterment Resource Center  |  Published: September 1, 2018


Table of Contents

Getting Started

Ownership

Other Questions


What is a joint account?

Betterment joint accounts enable two people to share and progress toward investment goals together. Both holders of the joint account have full access to the joint account and are able to create goals, transfer funds from the linked checking account, change allocations, and view the account.

Two customers in a joint account have joint ownership of the assets in the account. Upon death of one of the joint account owners, the assets are transferred to the surviving account holder.

What types of joint accounts does Betterment support?

Betterment only supports joint accounts with rights of survivorship. This means that upon the death of either owner of the joint account, the ownership of the account goes to the surviving joint account holder. Both holders of the joint account have full access to the joint account and are able to view the account, create goals, transfer funds, and change allocations.

How can I open a joint account?

You must first create a personal Betterment account before a joint account can be created. You do not have to fund your personal account, and you can delete it afterward without any fees or penalties. After you’ve created your personal account, follow the steps below to create a joint account.

To create a joint account:

  1. Log in to Betterment, either on a web browser or your mobile app
  2. Click “Add New” from the menu if on a web browser, or “Add goal/account” if on the mobile app
  3. Follow the on-screen prompts
  4. An email invitation will be sent to the joint account holder

How can I close a joint account?

Either joint account holder can close the joint account.

To do so, log in below, and select “Accounts” from the sub-header. Once to this page, you will click the three dots towards the right of the account you are looking to close. You then will be asked to answer one of your security questions:

This will withdraw all your funds directly to your linked bank account and disable your joint account. There are no trading fees or penalties for closing accounts.

Please contact us at support@betterment.com if your decision to cancel is based on any problems you may be experiencing. If you simply need access to your funds, note that there are no fees for accounts with a $0 balance, so feel free to withdraw and keep your account open until you are ready to invest with us again.

To transfer funds from a joint account to an existing Betterment personal account, please contact customer service at support@betterment.com.

With whom can I open a joint account?

Joint accounts can be created with any other Betterment customer. You do not need to be married to create a joint account together. Only two Betterment customers can be associated with a joint account. If you wish to create a joint account with someone who is not a Betterment customer, they must first open a personal (individual) Betterment account. (Remember, we never charge for a zero balance account.)

Can I change the ownership of my joint account?

Betterment cannot support the ability to transfer primary ownership of a joint account. Bear in mind, however, that a joint account is legally owned by both parties associated with the account. The IRS requires only the primary account holder be listed on tax statements.

How can I tell who the primary account holder is for our joint account?

The account holder that opened the joint account and sent the invitation to the secondary account holder is designated as the primary account holder. To see who the primary account holder is, view your joint account settings.

What is the difference between a joint account and having a beneficiary?

Two customers in a joint account have joint ownership of the assets in the account. Each can transfer money, create goals, change allocations, etc. Upon death of one of the joint account owners, the assets are transferred to the surviving account holder.

A beneficiary does not have access, control, or ownership over the account. Upon death of the account holder (or both account holders if the beneficiary is designated for a joint account), the assets are transferred to the beneficiary.

Do both owners of a joint account need to approve actions taken in the account?

Most actions do not require consent from both customers. These include closing the account, deposits, withdrawals, transfers, creating new goals, allocation changes, changes to the linked checking account, and beneficiary changes. Both account holders will receive email notifications anytime a deposit, withdrawal, transfer, or allocation change occurs.

Can I transfer money or goals from my personal Betterment account to our joint account?

It is possible to transfer non-IRA assets from a personal account into a joint account. Simply contact us after you have created both types of accounts and we’ll get you started on this process.

Can we transfer funds to a joint account from more than one checking account?

No. At this time, our customers can only have one active checking account at a time linked to their joint Betterment account. Multiple linked bank accounts may be something we provide in the future.

To change the checking account to which your joint account is linked, contact customer service at support@betterment.com.

Will we see our personal (individual) account goals alongside our joint account goals?

Yes, you will see your personal (individual) account goals alongside your joint account goals. However, you will not be able to view the personal account goals of the other joint account holder.

Can I have an IRA in a joint account?

No. Because IRAs are Individual Retirement Accounts they can only be held in personal (individual) Betterment accounts.

However, you can have BOTH a joint account and a personal account.  This will allow you to create non-IRA goals in your joint account, while keeping your IRA in your personal Betterment account.

In the future we will be enabling moving specific non-IRA goals from your personal account to your joint account.

Can I have Tax Loss Harvesting+ turned on if I have a joint account?

Yes. When you enable TLH+ on your Betterment account, you’ll be asked for your spouse’s account information so that we can look across both your accounts for opportunities to harvest losses, while seeking to prevent wash sales in your Betterment accounts. Learn how to enable TLH+ across you and your spouse’s accounts here.

For more information on TLH+, please see our whitepaper.

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