Joint Accounts – Who Gets the Account Upon Your Death?

August 28, 2019

An account that is titled in your name and that of your child “with right of survivorship” passes to your child upon your death “by operation of law.” That is, your Will does not control the disposition of this account. When an account is titled in your name and your child’s name “as tenants in common,” at your death one-half of the account is deemed to be owned by your child and the other half passes into your estate as a probate asset. That is, your Will does control the disposition of one half of this account. If the account is titled in your name and your child’s name and says nothing else, the banking law presumes that it is meant to be a joint account with right of survivorship and the entire account passes to your child on your death by operation of law.

As people get older, they will frequently title an account jointly in their own name and that of a child who lives close to them in order to help with check-writing, bill paying, transfers and withdrawals. These are often called “convenience accounts” and, despite the joint title on the account, the parent does not intend for the assets in that account to pass to the named child upon the parent’s death. Rather, the parent intends that the balance of the account at the parent’s death be added to the parent’s estate and, thus, the parent’s Will will control the disposition of the assets in that account. Unfortunately, if the account signature card does not specifically state that it is titled jointly “for convenience purposes,” joint accounts can be frequent fodder for litigation upon the death of the parent.

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Reprinted with permission from Lloyd Harbor Life, August 2019. 


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