How to handle a joint account of a brotherand sister if one party died and there is no Will?

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How to handle a joint account of a brotherand sister if one party died and there is no Will?

Sister has joint banking accounts with brother who just recently is deceased. The brother has no Will but has surviving children who are not on his banking accounts. How can the sister handle the accounts without his children trying to contest the accounts and having them frozen? The sister plans on using the funds in the accounts to pay the outstanding bills for the deceased. Once the bills have all been paid, does the sister have the right to all of the remaining funds? Will the surviving children have any rights to these funds?

Asked on January 19, 2011 under Estate Planning, Texas

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If she is listed on the accounts as a joint account holder "with rights of survivorship" then she, and she alone, is entitled to the accounts.  By operation of law she became the legal owner of them at the time that the other account holder died.  This is true whether or not there was a Will because such assets pass outside of the probate estate.  You'll need to check what the sognature card of the account says about survivorship.

If no such right of survivorship was designated, then things are different.  When someone dies without at a Will they are said to have dies "intestate".  Accordingly, the laws of the state in which they were domiciled as of the date of their death will control.  Any funds in the account pass to  and be divided among the deceased's heirs (again in accordance with the intestacy statute).

Note:  In the event that the right of survivorship option is not selected on the signature card, the other account holder is not stripped of property belonging to them; they receive all of the funds that they put into the joint account, as it is their property.


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