Can someone who was a joint account holder on my mother’s bank account take all the money in the account after her death?

When My mother was living she made my nephew a joint account holder on her
bank accounts with the intention that he could pay her bills and keep her affairs
while she was alive. It was never her intention to make him a joint owner of her
accounts but she signed the bank papers. She had a will that left her home and
half of her financial estate to me as her only living child. The other half of her
financial estate was to be divided equally amongst my sister’s four children.
It seems to me that since my nephew was made a joint holder of my mother’s
account he could legally spend that money and disburse the funds as he sees fit
and there would be nothing I could do. Am I correct?

Asked on January 9, 2019 under Estate Planning, Rhode Island


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

Yes, unfortunately you are correct. In making your nephew a joint account holder, your mother set it up so that while she lived, he had equal rights to the money in the account as her, the other joint account holder, and that when she died, it would become his entirely, since when one joint account holder dies, the money in the account goes to the surviving joint account holder. If you mother wanted you to get the money in the estate, she unfortunately made a mistake in how she set matters up.

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