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Law Offices of Ronald W. Rutz
Coloradoan Archives

May 15, 1998: Adding Names to Bank Account; Mistake on Traffic Violation

Q: This nice young lady has been spending time with me and helping around the house. We have become good friends. Do you see any reason why I should not add her name to my bank accounts? It would be handy for me, since I don't see very good anymore, and after all, she can only take half of the amount in the accounts anyway, Right?

A: Friendship and trust are important but caution, at least initially, might be wise. Remember a gift can be deemed to have been made whenever you add someone's name to a title or an account. Thus, if one-half of the total of the accounts exceeds $10,000, a gift tax could be assessed against you on the excess. With some bank accounts, like checking accounts, any person on the account can withdraw the whole amount, not just half. Also remember, depending on how it is handled, she may gain legal ownership to one-half of the accounts when you simply put her name on the account. And if the accounts are set up in joint tenancy, at your death she would receive all the accounts regardless of what your Will states. If you want her to help, maybe start a checking account for both of you and then be sure only limited funds are on deposit there.

Q: After all of these years I got my first traffic ticket. I did not do what the officer put down. I know that it is just my word against her word in Court. I am mad, feel violated, and am traumatized about the power of police but I do not have the money to fight in Court and I would feel humiliated being a "defendant".

A: Instead of fighting in traffic court, people who do not feel they violated the law (and people seeing if they can just get a break) can plead not-guilty and ask for a pre-trial conference where you can sit down with a prosecutor, tell your story, have the prosecutor review the evidence compiled by the officer, and see if the prosecutor will offer you something other than the charges on the ticket. Some jurisdictions will not allow pre-trial conferences. Certain prosecutors' offices will hold the conference the same day you plead guilty or not guilty while others will have you schedule a time on a different day. A few will not hold a formal hearing but will accept or consider a written statement. Basically, call the Court clerk and ask how the attorney in charge handles things.

Do not expect a straight dismissal (although that is possible) but often a deferred sentence is offered, deferred prosecution occasionally is put on the table, or a plea to a lesser offense. Deferment just means that if you meet certain conditions, such as not incurring three more points within the city limits of Fort Collins during the next three months, then the charges will be dropped. With your driving record, it would not hurt to try.

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