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Right of Survivorship to Accounts Lost By Withdrawing Funds Prior to Death
Description South Carolina high court held that when a holder of the right to survivorship to a joint account withdraws funds from the account prior to the death of the other holder of the joint account, that the right of survivorship to the funds was lost and the funds must be returned to the estate of the deceased joint account holder.
Topic Wills, Estates, and Trusts
Key Words Right of Survivorship; Accounts
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Prior to her death, Mary established several joint accounts in her name and in the name of her nephew, John. The accounts contained right of survivorship provisions. The accounts contained funds only contributed by Mary. Mary was hospitalized shortly before her death, and unknown to her, John transferred all of the proceeds from the joint accounts into a new account only in his name. John used $5,000 of the money to pay for funeral expenses. The estate's representative demanded that John return the rest of the funds to the estate. He refused and the matter went to court. The probate court found that John was not entitled to the funds he withdrew and ordered him to return the remaining funds to the estate. The trial court and court of appeals affirmed. John appealed to the supreme court.
Decision Affirmed. The funds in a joint survivorship account were property of the estate of the contributing account holder, Mary, because the non-contributing account holder, John, withdrew the funds and deposited them into a new account prior to Mary's death. Since there were no funds in the account at the time of Mary's death, John cannot claim right of survivorship. John lost his right to survivorship and must return the funds.
Citation Vaughn ex rel. Estate of Bernhardt v. Bernhardt, C S.E.2d C (2001 WL 638440, Sup. Ct., S.C., 2001)

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