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Old 01.07.2011, 03:39
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Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

Came across this intriguing site while researching a problem for a friend and thought why not ask a question of this board and benefit from the wisdom of crowds.

Here is my friend's situation: For 5+ years she, an American, has dated a German fellow, whom I will call Kurt. They are not married and in fact never even lived together. They are both in the States much of the year, but not its entirety.

In any case, Kurt, a few years ago, added her to a pre-existing Swiss bank account of his in a regional KantonalBank. She believes she was added as a joint holder of the account, but she no forms from that encounter. She has twice visited the bank with Kurt but has never made a withdrawal.

Two months ago they began what appears to be an irremediable breakup.
She is concerned that some money of hers, deposited into that account by Kurt is going to be lost. It is a small percentage of what is held there, maybe 50,000 Euros, but it is critical to her.

Her primary concern is that Kurt is going to clear out the account or move the monies elsewhere. Secondarily, she fears that if she contacts the bank they will notify Kurt and that will precipitate one of the aforementioned actions.

Her questions, as I understand them to be, include the following:

- Is there any other type of account that might have been formed other than a standard joint account? Her passport was examined and her address taken and even a password name generated. (It is not a mutual signing joint account; Kurt has made numerous transactions since she was added)

- Is there any way to ascertain, from across the globe, whether she can make a withdrawal or that she is even still on the account? (It's not impossible that he has already blocked her.)

- Can one member of a joint account withdraw all its funds? Moreover, can one member of a joint account remove the other without his/her consent?

- If she were to appear at the door of the bank, provided she is still listed as joint holder, would she be able to withdraw funds? Would she be able to withdraw the sizable @50,000 euros that she deposited? And in such an instance, can a bank legally stall or block her while it contacts the primary owner (it would seem Kurt should be seen this way) to determine his desires? Might they do it even if illegal?

- Finally, as she has no documentation or account passnumber, will she even be acknowledged as being a joint holder? She has Kurt's name and of course proof of her own identity, but is that enough?

Thank you for pondering this little imbroglio. Informed advice to be very much appreciated.

V
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Old 01.07.2011, 08:13
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

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- Is there any other type of account that might have been formed other than a standard joint account? Her passport was examined and her address taken and even a password name generated. (It is not a mutual signing joint account; Kurt has made numerous transactions since she was added)
Sounds like a normal joint account where each person can operate the account individually (typical for eg a husband and wife, each with a separate bankcard, each can deposit and withdraw by themselves). Both parties have to sign to add the 2nd person. Both have to sign to remove the 2nd person.
But some joint accounts can be setup where BOTH parties have to sign for all transactions (eg: for a business). That won't be the case, because she has not been signing for anything whilst he was operating the account.

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- Is there any way to ascertain, from across the globe, whether she can make a withdrawal or that she is even still on the account? (It's not impossible that he has already blocked her.)
Yes, Simply ring the bank and ask them.
He cannot block her without her consent anyway.

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- Can one member of a joint account withdraw all its funds? Moreover, can one member of a joint account remove the other without his/her consent?
Yes, because if it is joint, you can operate jointly or singly. So either person can do anything.

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- If she were to appear at the door of the bank, provided she is still listed as joint holder, would she be able to withdraw funds?
Yes, show ID (passport etc) to confirm identity and help locate bank account, and fill out the withdrawal form and withdraw the money.
If it is a joint account, she can withdraw just the same as he can. And up to the limit of the account's available funds.

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Would she be able to withdraw the sizable @50,000 euros that she deposited? And in such an instance, can a bank legally stall or block her while it contacts the primary owner (it would seem Kurt should be seen this way) to determine his desires? Might they do it even if illegal?
If it is joint, both are the owners. So either can withdraw. No contact with the other is required.
However, once a joint is established, both parties have to confirm any changes (otherwise the purpose of a joint account is defeated).
So if she is a joint holder, she will stay a joint account holder until both parties agree otherwise.

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- Finally, as she has no documentation or account passnumber, will she even be acknowledged as being a joint holder? She has Kurt's name and of course proof of her own identity, but is that enough?
Yes, you ring or visit the bank, tell them you lost the account details because you haven't used it for a long time. Ask them to confirm your account number. Answer the security questions they will ask you.
Then update your current address with them, and ask them to send you the account details.

They will be able to confirm from your name and address if you are an account holder, and that will immediately confirm the account status (joint or individual account)

Of course they have to be satisfied with the identity of the person calling first, so the usual security questions will be asked: date of birth, address, etc etc
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Old 01.07.2011, 08:35
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

Sounds a bit dodgy. I was recently added to my fiancés bank account to create a joint account, I have my own bank card and also had to sign lots of paperwork. If she has not had any correspondence from the bank addressed to her or a bank card then I would start to worry
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Old 01.07.2011, 09:22
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

Caution here. This is Switzerland and the laws you know from other countries might not apply. I remember when I opened an account when I first came here many many years ago I was told that Swiss law does not allow joint accounts - rather the account is in a single name with the other partner having effectively a power of attorney over the account. All fine until things go tits up with the relationship as the account holder can cancel this at any time.

Having said this, since then they have been quite happy to open a joint mortgage.

In any event I would suggest the risk is quite high that this is not a joint account as you understand it.
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Old 01.07.2011, 09:27
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

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Sounds a bit dodgy. I was recently added to my fiancés bank account to create a joint account, I have my own bank card and also had to sign lots of paperwork. If she has not had any correspondence from the bank addressed to her or a bank card then I would start to worry
....yup, all this happens but legally it is still probably your fiancés' account to which you have full signatory rights - but which he possibly could remove in future.
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Old 01.07.2011, 10:38
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

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Yes, Simply ring the bank and ask them.
He cannot block her without her consent anyway.



First off thanks for the detailed, clear reply. If I could figure out how to mark a thanks, I would.

Will a Swiss bank offering such private accounts really answer such questions over the phone? Especially to a non-primary account holder?

Second, if one party can withdraw all of the funds in the account, isn't that essentially the same as being able to close the other out? I suppose it is.
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Old 01.07.2011, 10:42
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

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I was told that Swiss law does not allow joint accounts - rather the account is in a single name with the other partner having effectively a power of attorney over the account. All fine until things go tits up with the relationship as the account holder can cancel this at any time.

In any event I would suggest the risk is quite high that this is not a joint account as you understand it.

This somehow feels like it may be nearing the truth of the matter.

Kurt inherited the majority of the account when someone passed away - he knew nothing about it until contacted. (He believes his father arranged established his attachment to the account).

But what do you mean by having power of attorney? That she would only come into play in the eventuality of his passing?

Thanks again for the deliberation.
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Old 01.07.2011, 11:02
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

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But what do you mean by having power of attorney? That she would only come into play in the eventuality of his passing?

.
Power of attorny gives you full signing rights on somebody elses account. You can even close the account if you want, works untill revoked. In Switzerland there is a possibility that it carries on after death of the original account holder.

I would go to the bank TODAY if I were you.

Edit, it's quite possible it's not in Kurt's name he also has a power of attorney from someone who died. Do you have the no? It could even have no name attached, as it's a sizable account, possibly not declaired to the IRS.
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Old 01.07.2011, 12:10
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

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....yup, all this happens but legally it is still probably your fiancés' account to which you have full signatory rights - but which he possibly could remove in future.
I doubt that I'm not that sadistic or morally corrupt...

Regardless of the worst that could happen.
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Old 01.07.2011, 23:53
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

[QUOTE=fatmanfilms;1247346

Edit, it's quite possible it's not in Kurt's name he also has a power of attorney from someone who died. Do you have the no? It could even have no name attached, as it's a sizable account, possibly not declaired to the IRS.[/QUOTE]


I think you may be right, that it is simply a numbered account. The bankers know Kurt and his name but it may not be on the account. How could she possibly get access to it - even if she is joint owner - if it is a secret numbered account?
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Old 02.07.2011, 00:00
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

She is American & is a Swiss bank account holder (in some form) & has not declared this 50K euro to the IRS I assume?
Sounds like a mess whichever way you look at it....
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Old 02.07.2011, 00:08
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

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She is American & is a Swiss bank account holder (in some form) & has not declared this 50K euro to the IRS I assume?
Sounds like a mess whichever way you look at it....
I presume she hasn't mentioned it ...
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Old 02.07.2011, 05:54
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

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I think you may be right, that it is simply a numbered account. The bankers know Kurt and his name but it may not be on the account. How could she possibly get access to it - even if she is joint owner - if it is a secret numbered account?
As Baboon says, it's probably not a joint account, but an account where you may have been given power of attorney.

It's doubtful that he has access to an account that his name is not on. If it's a numbered account you will need the number/code to the account to access it.

Good luck & tell us how it works out for you.
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Old 02.07.2011, 06:07
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

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As Baboon says, it's probably not a joint account, but an account where you may have been given power of attorney.

It's doubtful that he has access to an account that his name is not on. If it's a numbered account you will need the number/code to the account to access it.

Good luck & tell us how it works out for you.
Yes ... but power of attorney, if I understand it, would allow her to make the withdrawal she wishes, would it not? It's not merely for use when the other party dies, correct?
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Old 02.07.2011, 07:10
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

Power of attorney just means signatory rights. My mother has power of attorney over her mother's accounts - he mother being too old to want to be bothered by paying bills any more. It's not to do with death, per se.

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... I remember when I opened an account when I first came here many many years ago I was told that Swiss law does not allow joint accounts - rather the account is in a single name with the other partner having effectively a power of attorney over the account. ...
I was also told this when I opened my account ten years ago. My wife's power of attorney over my account means that she has full access to our money, and can do all I can do with it, but I have the additional power that I can revoke her power of attorney. She cannot close the account without my agreement. I don't need hers.

We must get round to making a joint account!
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Old 02.07.2011, 07:26
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

I have signing authority on my husband's account, but not a card or password. If I take my ID to the original bank where the account was opened, I can withdraw funds in an emergency situation.

I could probably arrange to withdraw funds from an alternate branch with my ID, but it depends whether the bank uses an electronic system where ID is in the computer, or a manual system where the authority form is filed...I'm familiar with banks who use both systems...but traditionally you would have always had to go to the original branch, and not just any if you want to do an over-the-counter transaction with ID.

However, taking money from a bank account without the consent of the primary account holder, would look very bad.

In breakups, couples often take money from one another, and banks are fairly sussed to that. On the other hand, if he's the primary account holder, he might have already changed the authority or account and moved the money elsewhere.

Personally, if her money is only a percentage of what is held in this account, then I'd be preparing a legal letter that declares the amount that is hers, and fronting up to this 'kurt' and telling him that he ought to sign an agreement that it's hers, and then asking him to arrange for the money to be deposited to an account that she has arranged previously, so that it's all up-front and understood...do it with a witness, someone who is trusted by both sides...

On the other hand, she should then be prepared that he may well run away with her money, and that he might also report her for tax fraud (if she's been avoiding tax) or declare that it was a 'gift' and not a 'loan' that she put into his account...
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Old 02.07.2011, 07:57
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

Something else to worry about. Has she been filing FBARs for the account? It sounds like she should be/should have been. I have no idea of the practical issues involved in making good if she hasn't.
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Old 02.07.2011, 18:57
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

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I have signing authority on my husband's account, but not a card or password. If I take my ID to the original bank where the account was opened, I can withdraw funds in an emergency situation.

I could probably arrange to withdraw funds from an alternate branch with my ID, but it depends whether the bank uses an electronic system where ID is in the computer, or a manual system where the authority form is filed...I'm familiar with banks who use both systems...but traditionally you would have always had to go to the original branch, and not just any if you want to do an over-the-counter transaction with ID.

However, taking money from a bank account without the consent of the primary account holder, would look very bad.

.
I suspect this "power of authority" arrangement must be what she has. She has never received any documents or information on her visits to the bank. But discussions concerning the account take place in front of her. She also mentioned - which i did not know previously - that at first she was attached to the account under an alias but that on her next visit, a year later, they switched to a normalized arrangement where they filed her under her actual name and discarded the alias.

Last, how would the bank determine if it's an emergency and she is entitled to withdraw money? She really just wants a one-time withdrawal of her 50,000 Euros. In an account with many times that amount in it, wouldn't that be feasible?
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Old 02.07.2011, 21:42
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

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I think you may be right, that it is simply a numbered account. The bankers know Kurt and his name but it may not be on the account. How could she possibly get access to it - even if she is joint owner - if it is a secret numbered account?
Numbered accounts are numbered and that's it. Loose the no & thats it, even if you phone your contact at the bank who knows you, he will not be able to help, the owners name is not on a computer but in a safe. Mention a no & then they go to the safe & get the file!

The Bank will never disclose the details of the account, because 'The Bank' has 1000's of such accounts so does not know the owners name. If an enquiry is made for the precise account no to the right department then it might be answered.

I had power of Attorney of such an account, turning up at the cash desk of branch that held the account produced nothing. Going upstairs to the 'Bank within a Bank' produced the result!

As the account is secret, you pay extra to hold all mail, they will never write to you, I was offered a choice of 2 business cards a normal one or just one with his name & phone no, it looked like it had been printed in a shoppinc centre for 5 chf!
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Old 02.07.2011, 21:49
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Re: Swiss Bank - Joint Account Dilemma

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Last, how would the bank determine if it's an emergency and she is entitled to withdraw money? She really just wants a one-time withdrawal of her 50,000 Euros. In an account with many times that amount in it, wouldn't that be feasible?
The bank will not help in the slightest, in GE / VD they wont cooperate even with a court order as it¨s against the law!

If she knows the account no, can prove her identity & has a power of attorney it will work, otherwise no chance.
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