If I’m a joint account holder on my late father’s savings account and he has passed, do my sisters have the right to take it from me?

Asked on July 21, 2015 under Estate Planning, Texas


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The general rule is that if you own an account jointly with someone who subsequently passes away, the surviving co-owner will automatically become the sole account owner. It will not need to go through probate before it can be transferred to the survivor. Therefore, any beneficiaries or heirs of the deceased esatte has no claim to it.

Most bank accounts held in the names of 2 (or more) people are held in what’s called the “right of survivorship" (i.e. "WROS") or "joint tenants with rights of survivorship" (i.e. "JTWROS") which means that after a co-owner dies, the surviving owner(s) automatically become(s) the sole owner(s) of the funds in the account.

However, if the account simply lists your names and doesn’t mention joint tenancy or the right of survivorship, it means that you are a "tenant in common" and therefore the deceased's share goes into their estate and is subject to distribution as per probate. If you’re in doubt, check with the bank.

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