Can a bank close a joint account after a person dies when the other account holder is still alive?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can a bank close a joint account after a person dies when the other account holder is still alive?

My mother and sister had a joint bank account with Navy Federal Credit Union. My
Mother was the primary account holder. However, my Mother passed away last year
and NFCU in March just closed the joint account and confiscated the 610.42 that
was left in the account. Can a bank just close down a joint account and grab the
funds? Isn’t the joint account holder supposed to inherit or take over the

Asked on July 18, 2017 under Estate Planning, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Yes, the joint holder gets the money. The bank cannot take simply take it as a general rule (though they can close the joint account and put the money into a new non-joint account for the survivor). However, if your mother owed more than the amount in the account, they likely *could* do this. While you'd need to check your mother's various agreements with the bank to be sure (e.g. her credit card agreement; her account agreement; etc.), they generally provide that if the accountholder owes the bank money--and all debts come due immediately on death--the bank can take the money from her accounts. If any of the agreements between your mother and bank provided this, taking the money was legal; in this case, your mother would have contractually agreed to let the bank do this.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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