I recently uncovered, on the Internet, several modifications to famous quotations. Supposedly, schoolchildren were given famous quotations and encouraged to change them to better fit the times in which we live. The quotation that pertains to this article is sometimes called the "Serenity Prayer." You're probably familiar with it. After it was modified, it came out, "Give me the strength to change the things I can, the grace to accept the things I cannot, and a great big bag of money.
Since the children seem to understand the importance of money, maybe we adults should spend little time thinking about it as well. Let's quickly review the history of money. The times when money was not in use are long past. There are still isolated the countries where many things are directly exchanged, or "bartered," but for the most part, we all have to deal with money.
Historically, because of their intrinsic value, gold and silver were examples of the earliest kind of money. Both gold and silver, provide the basis for our monetary system today. As commerce grew more complex, it became inefficient to use the pieces of gold or silver for many transactions. Large amounts of a gold or silver were not useful for small purchases. Coins soon became standard.
As you would expect, money was soon governed by law. Our Constitution at Article I Section 8 provides that the Congress has the right to "coin money" and "regulate the value thereof." Our Supreme Court, in many decisions, has affirmed the exclusive right of Congress with regard to "legal tender." The various states, which have the power to tax or borrow mone,y are prohibited from issuing their own currency.
The value of your dollar is determined by Congress as well as by the world market. Generally, the United States dollar, has been a stable currency, possibly, the most stable in the world. As you may know, the dollar continues to be accepted, in many countries, which have their own currency, because their citizens would rather have the American dollar than their own money.
Because carrying currency and coins is sometimes inefficient, most people keep a checking account. When you have a checking account, you deposit money in your bank. The Bank is allowed to mingle that money with the money of other depositors. A check allows you to make the payments from your account, as you direct, by filling out your check. As long as you have "sufficient funds," in the bank, the bank must honor your check. If you have "overdrawn" you're account, the bank does not have to pay your check. The bank's decision to honor your check may be based in part on your previous history as a depositor and what the bank may believe you will do in the future. In most cases, the bank will charge a fee to cover the cost of handling an insufficient check. It is important to remember that you can be prosecuted for writing a check when you know you do not have money in the bank to cover it.
Sometimes, after you have paid for something by check, you may want to call the check back. For example, you may have bought merchandise at which was defective. In such cases, if the check has not been presented for payment, you may be able to contact your bank and ask them to put a "stop payment" on your check. If the check has already been presented for payment, you won't be able to stop the check.
Similarly, if you have written a check at which has been lost by the person, to whom you paid by the check, you can also put a stop payment on that check. Normally the bank will charge a fee for a stop payment to instruction given by you. If the bank makes a mistake and pays a check, which you have properly ordered to be stopped, you will be able to collect the amount from the bank. You should check with your bank to understand what their procedures are with regard to handling your checks.
Banks usually have several kinds of checking accounts. You may have single depositor account and only your name will be on the account. You will be the only one able to write checks on that account. Many times, for convenience, people elect to have a joint checking account. This is an account in the names of two persons, either of which may write checks on the account.
A joint taking account is different from a checking account established by two or more people, for example partners in a business. This type of an account is usually in the name of the business entity. Business accounts could require the signatures of more than one person on a check.
If you are involved in a joint or a business checking account, it is best to have similar goals and interests, as well as complete trust in the person who joins you in the account. If you miss this important consideration, you may spend more time with your lawyer than your banker!
Next week: Different types of checks and accounts.
Michael R. Barnes practices law in Key West, Florida. His comments are provided as a pro bono community service and are not offered as legal advice for a particular set of circumstances. If you are concerned that you may need a lawyer, you are encouraged to contact one and follow his or her advice for your individual situation.