Does the Executor of the Will Supersede a Joint Holder on a Bank Account?

By Heather Frances J.D.

When a person dies, some of his assets – including cash – may pass to different people depending on how those assets are titled. Bank accounts are assets that can pass automatically without going through court instead of being controlled and distributed by an executor in a probate proceeding. Generally, funds in a joint bank account will pass automatically to the surviving joint owner when one joint owner dies.

When a person dies, some of his assets – including cash – may pass to different people depending on how those assets are titled. Bank accounts are assets that can pass automatically without going through court instead of being controlled and distributed by an executor in a probate proceeding. Generally, funds in a joint bank account will pass automatically to the surviving joint owner when one joint owner dies.

Probate v. Non-Probate

A deceased person’s estate can be divided into probate assets and non-probate assets. Probate assets are those that must pass through a probate process, often court-supervised, before they can be distributed to the beneficiary. Typically, probate assets are things that were only in the deceased’s name, including vehicles, real estate or bank accounts. Non-probate assets are distributed directly to the beneficiary without having to go through probate, and these assets are usually non-probate because they have joint owners or beneficiary designations as part of the asset, such as jointly owned real estate or payable-on-death bank accounts.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Joint Bank Accounts

Joint bank accounts – or bank accounts that have more than one person’s name as the owner of the account – usually come with rights of survivorship. This means the funds in the account automatically pass to the remaining joint owner when one joint owner dies. Frequently, spouses hold joint accounts where both names are on the account, and each spouse has full abilities to access the money in the account.

Right of Survivorship

When accounts have more than one name, the right of survivorship is presumed, meaning the account’s founding documents don’t have to specify that the surviving owner has the right of survivorship. However, presumptions can be rebutted if there was no intent for the account to include rights of survivorship. For example, if a mother adds a child to her account for her convenience so that the child can pay some of the mother’s bills, the account may not be a true joint account and may not include rights of survivorship since it seems the mother did not intend for her child to have the money in the account.

Challenging Presumptions

The person who wishes to challenge the presumption of rights of survivorship must present evidence to the probate court. The evidence must show that the surviving joint owner’s name was added to the account merely for the convenience of the deceased account holder. For example, this could include testimony that the mother told the banker or a friend that she wanted her child to be able to write checks for bills while she was in a nursing home.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Does a Will Override a Joint Account?

References

Related articles

Am I Entitled to My Wife's Hidden Bank Accounts in the Divorce?

Dividing property in a divorce comes down to determining what's yours, what belongs to your spouse, and what belongs to both of you. Your entitlement to certain assets can be a lot more complicated than that, however, because the boundaries can overlap and the lines between each category of property often blur.

Transfer on Death Vs. Beneficiary

It can take years to settle a decedent’s estate through probate, and the executor usually can’t transfer any of the decedent's assets to his beneficiaries until she has addressed and resolved many other issues. This means that if you intend that your spouse should have access to your checking account after your death, she can’t access the money unless you title the account in a way that avoids probate. Otherwise, it belongs to your estate until your executor settles and closes it, and that could be a long time.

Can an Executor of a Will Close a Bank Account?

The executor of a will is responsible for managing the financial affairs of the estate. To do this job properly, the probate court grants the executor the power to perform any financially related action that the decedent could have done with his own property including closing a bank account.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Can an Executor of a Will Have Access to Joint Bank Accounts Not Under His Name?

If you intend to have money in your bank account go to a beneficiary you name in your will, you may need to check with ...

Items That Are Not Part of a Probate Estate in Pennsylvania

Not all of a decedent's property in Pennsylvania falls under the state's probate laws. Whether or not a particular ...

Probate Vs. Non-Probate Assets in Ohio

In Ohio, as in other states, certain assets are classified as probate or non-probate property. Non-probate assets are ...

Does a Final Will & Testament Have Precedence Over a 401(k)?

Not all property is equal in a person’s estate. Property can fall into different categories, with some property ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED