Do you need a will if you don't have any assets?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My grandmother doesn't have any property or money in the bank except for her monthly Social Security check. She has a joint bank account with my mother, but my mother doesn't have a power of attorney. Does my grandmother still need a will even though she really doesn't have any assets? They live together in NJ.

Expert Answer

I doubt if your grandmother needs a will. As you grandmother has no assets, aside from funds in her joint account with her daughter (your mother), what purpose would a will serve? The cautious, conventional lawyer's response would be"”of course she needs a will; everyone does. I disagree with this conventional wisdom. [I often disagree with conventional wisdom.] Even after your grandmother's death, your mother las the legal authority to remove any funds in the joint account.

Your mother might want to obtain a legal document authorizing her to make health care decisions for your grandmother if she becomes incapacitated and can no longer make her own decisions. Your State Medical Association should be able to provide your mother with the form, or at least show her how she can get it.