How do I handlea checking/savings account if one of the account holders dies?

If a person has a checking or savings account and another person joins that account and the first person dies, can a third party put a claim on the money on that account or does the survivor take it all? Also, do you have to pay tax on the money that is in that account?

Asked on August 22, 2011 Virginia


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

So the parties created a joint account by adding the other party to the account or was the other party added as just a signatory (the right to sign checks) on the account?  Generally speaking, when two people open a joint account there are rights of survivorship on the account.  That means that if one of the parties dies then the other party has the right to the money.  But that may not always be the case and I can not tell here what type of account the two people you are talking about ended up with in the end.  Now, tax issues can be separate from inheritance issues.  Yes, the money in the account can be considered for tax purposes as part of the estate of the decedent (half of it, remember?).  Please seek some guidance here from an attorney in your area.  Good luck.

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