SW Legal studies in Business

Joint Bank Account Has No Automatic Right of Survivorship
Description Appeals court held that a person who has a joint bank account does not have a right of survivorship to the account after the other account holder dies. The account is part of the estate of the deceased and passes to the heirs. Unless a right of survivorship is clearly established, it is presumed not to exist.
Topic Wills, Estates, and Trusts
Key Words Bank Account; Right of Survivorship; Gift Inter Vivos; Executrix
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts In 1987, Johnson added Wright to her bank account. Johnson did not mark the portion of the signature card at the bank that would signify that the account was to have rights of survivorship. In 1988, Johnson executed a will which she changed by a codicil in 1993. Johnson died in 1996 and Wright was appointed executrix of Johnson's estate, most of which was left to Moore. Moore discovered that Wright had withdrawn funds from the bank after Johnson's death and sued to recover the money. Wright argued that she had the right to use the bank account as a gift inter vivos. The trial court held that the funds had to be repaid. Wright appealed..
Decision

Affirmed. The rule for gifts inter vivos is that the intention to give and delivery of the subject of the gift must be clear. Doubts are resolved against the gift. The burden of proving that a gift was made is upon the donee. Here the record is clear that when Johnson had the opportunity to give Wright the right of survivorship in the bank account, she did not. There is no presumption that joint accounts are gifts inter vivos or automatically have rights of survivorship.

Citation In re Estate of Johnson, 2001 WL 892839 (Ct. App., Tenn., 2001)

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