What happens to a joint account when one of the account holders dies?

UPDATED: Apr 7, 2013

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What happens to a joint account when one of the account holders dies?

My mother (father living) is in serious condition and their accounts are set up as joint. They both receive social security and my father receives a pension. They do not carry personal cash it is all in accounts. If my mother were to pass. Will my father be able to access the accounts? They have not designated a power of attorney? If they were both to pass, would someone become the power of attorney? Or do we need to appoint one now? (Mother is in no condition to sign papers)

Asked on April 7, 2013 under Estate Planning, Indiana


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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Typically, on joint accounts, if one of the account holders passes, then the remaining holder takes over full ownership rights to any money in the account (however it will depend it the account is held with rights of survivorship; you will need to check). If both of your parents passes, then the money in the account will become part of their estate. Accorsingly, it will pass via the terms of a Will (to the beneficiaries) and, if there is no Will, it will pass as per state "intestacy" laws (to the heirs).

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