If my brother was put on our late mother’s checking account, do my siblings and I have any rights to it?

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If my brother was put on our late mother’s checking account, do my siblings and I have any rights to it?

There are 3 brothers and before my mother died she added my younger brother to her checking account. Now that both my mother and father have passed away my brother has added his wife to the checking account. Does my older brother and I have any legal claim to the remaining money left in the account. My parents did no have a Will. Is it legal for my brother to put wife’s name on the checking account?

Asked on March 13, 2015 under Estate Planning, New Jersey

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Sorry to hear about your parents.

Since your parents did not leave Wills, the rules of intestate succession determine inheritance.  Intestate means dying without a Will.

When your father died intestate,your mother, the surviving spouse, inherited his entire estate under intestate succession.

When your mother died intestate, her three sons inherited equal shares of her estate.  Each son should have inherited 1/3 of her estate including a 1/3 interest in the checking account.  You have a claim for 1/3 of the checking account.  Your older brother also has a claim for 1/3 of the checking account.

Your other brother's wife did NOT inherit anything from your mother under intestate succession and should not be on the checking account.  You and your older brother could sue your other brother's wife for the amount she wrongfully received from the checking account.  In that lawsuit, your remedy should be a constructive trust which means that she is ordered to return the funds to the estate she wrongfully received from the checking account.  You can trace those funds to items purchased and recover those items or their value in your lawsuit on behalf of your mother's estate.


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