Does the surviving husband or wife get possession of joint accounts after death?

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Does the surviving husband or wife get possession of joint accounts after death?

After my father’s wife died we removed her name from their joint accounts, his name is now alone on them. We are being told that they should be part of probate, she did not have a will. When a husband and wife have joint accounts and one dies isnt there a right of survivorshiip or are these shared accounts part of her estate and therefore part of probate to be split with her adult children? This is in South Carolina.

Asked on June 22, 2009 under Estate Planning, South Carolina

Answers:

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

In most states, a joint bank account, especially between husband and wife, belongs to the survivor when one of the account holders passes away.  However, there are exceptions, one of the most important being where one of the people is on the account is only there for the convenience of the other, to help them manage their money or pay their bills, and the "manager" puts nothing (or very, very little) into the account, and in a case like that, the money belongs to the estate.  It's entirely possible for there to be two (or more) accounts with the same two names on them, and for one account to go to the survivor and the other one going into the estate.

I'm not a South Carolina lawyer, and there are some variations on the law from one state to another.  In a fact-sensitive situation like this, I think it's very important that your father talks to a lawyer, because a mistake can be expensive.  One place to find an attorney is our website, http://attorneypages.com


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