Did you ever have a joint bank account with an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend? Are they still on the account? If so, you may be at risk of paying their debt if they don't.

03 Nov Did you ever have a joint bank account with an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend? Are they still on the account? If so, you may be at risk of paying their debt if they don't.

Recently a colleague of mine, Ronald Lipman, answered a legal question from one of his Texas readers in his weekly column in the Houston Chronicle. The reader had had a joint checking account with his former girlfriend back in the 1990’s. In 1998, she opened her own checking account at the same bank.

In 1999 they split up. Unfortunately, he never closed the joint checking account nor removed her as a co-signor on the joint account. Approximately nine years later, much to his surprise, he discovered the bank had debited his account for over $5,000.00 to pay the ex-girlfriend’s credit card judgment. The reader wanted to know if he had any rights.

Ronnie correctly answered the man was pretty much out of luck. He could try to collect the money from his ex-girlfriend but the likelihood of that is pretty slim since she has lenders suing her to collect her unpaid bills.

What should you do if you have had a joint bank account with someone in your past and the account is still open? I would close the account immediately and open a new account – and a keep a copy of the documents you sign at the bank to close and open the accounts.

With all the bank failures and mergers going on, signature cards and other documents have a good chance of getting lost or misplaced.

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Jay S. Fleischman is a bankruptcy lawyer with offices in Los Angeles and New York. He can often be found on Google+ and Twitter, where he shares information about consumer protection issues and personal finance.
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