1-561-514-0900 FREE CONSULTATION

When The Joint Bank Account & Florida Will Don’t Say The Same Thing:  10 tips on how to read a Florida will when there are joint accounts

Uncategorized Jun 12, 2017
post about When The Joint Bank Account & Florida Will Don’t Say The Same Thing:  10 tips on how to read a Florida will when there are joint accounts

Bank account lawsuits can be common for estate lawyers in Palm Beach after the owner dies.  Why? Well who inherits a bank account if the will says that all bank accounts “go” to Johnny, but the bank account with $2 Million has Janey’s name on it, JTROS?   If you are faced with inheriting a bank account in a Florida probate, but the one who runs the estate says you don’t get the $2 Million, here are some tips to help you find out who inherits under the Florida probate laws. And remember, you can read the Florida Probate Rules and the Florida Probate Code, which are different, although related, online for free.

So, consider this: someone opens up a bank account in West Palm Beach and puts $2 Million in it.  She opens the account  as “Auntie Wealthy, Joint Tenants with Janey.”  All the bank account statements say “Auntie Wealthy JTROS [or POD ] Janey.”   Auntie Wealthy dies, and there is a reading of will.  Your aunt’s estate plan attorney says that Johnny inherits the bank account.   And Johnny files a probate document making a claim to the bank account.  Who wins ? Who inherits the $2 Million bank account?

  1. A will disposes of property held in a person’s name at the time of death. Estate attorneys from Boca Raton to Palm Beach Gardens refer to this as: “the will speaks at death.”  Remember, if property is in a revocable trust, or titled in the name of someone’s trustee, you need to read the trust document to see what it says.  A trust, which is run by a trustee, is different from an estate or probate, which is run by an executor, what Palm Beach estate attorneys call a Personal Representative.
  2. For most intangible personal property, a Florida will is just fine, regardless of where the property is. In other words, a Florida will can pass stocks, bonds, cash, mutual funds and other similar property to beneficiaries, after all debts and expenses are paid.   But, not necessarily so for real estate, which must be “probated” where the real estate is located.  Probate lawyers in Palm Beach must open an “ancillary” proceeding for non-Florida real estate which is located in another state or outside of the USA. Why?  Because you need to pass good title, for deeds and conveyancing purposes.  And, the “local rule” in Florida says that you must handle real estate legal issues where the real estate is located. So, if you have a summer house on the Cape or in the Bahamas, you should get a deed to Massachusetts or Bahamian deed to transfer the property.  But, ask your estate planning lawyer about how to avoid or minimize probate, and lots of deeds, for non-Florida real estate.  There are some simple, inexpensive ways to have an LLC or your trust, hold title to non-Florida real estate.
  3. Bank accounts which have another person’s name on it, besides the owner, fall into two categories under Florida probate law.
  4. The first category is survivorship accounts. These are accounts which the account owner intended would NOT pass under the will or through a probate, but would “go” to, or be inherited by, the survivor named on the bank account.
  5. Survivorship accounts in Florida come under a number of names or categories: Totten Trusts, JTROS, POD, or with beneficiary designations. The intent is to have the account be inherited as a survivorship feature, payable on death, or to the beneficiary or account holder whose name is on the account.
  6. Survivorship accounts are said to pass, or be inherited, automatically, by operation of law. Not surprisingly, and especially when there are millions of dollars in these bank accounts, there are a lot of inheritance lawsuits in Florida about bank accounts, stock accounts and mutual funds.
  7. Survivorship accounts can be used for any financial account, not just a bank account. A joint account with a right of survivorship, or JTROS account, can be used for a checking or savings account, a CD, certificate of deposit, mutual fund, brokerage account or any other financial account . Although for annuities and life insurance contracts in Florida, read who the named beneficiary is.
  8. The second type of bank account is a called a convenience account.
  9. A convenience account does NOT “go to” or get inherited by the person whose name is on the account, even when it says “Joint Account with Full Rights of Survivorship”. A convenience account goes back to the probate, to the estate, to be used for estate expenses, debts and taxes of the person who just passed away, and then is distributed to beneficiaries under a will or revocable Florida trust.
  10. Whether a bank account is a survivorship account or a convenience account is a very fact specific matter. So, have your estate litigation attorney conduct very focused discovery, including obtaining the bank account records and account opening documents. When I have had bank account trials and lawsuits in Palm Beach, I conducted depositions of bank officers who had knowledge of the account, and had them testify at trial.  What’s important is that your probate litigator and you have a trial strategy based on the facts which you learn about the person who passed away and the particular bank account.

So, if the bank account says it “goes” to a joint account survivor, after the death of the person who created the account, BUT…. the will says all the bank accounts “go” to another person, find yourself a good Palm Beach estate litigator who has actually handled bank account trials and lawsuits.

How do I find a Florida lawyer to handle bank account lawsuits or appeals? Get beyond a probate lawyer who writes wills and trusts or who does estate planning.  Consider hiring a trial attorney who limits his or her practice to probate litigation. Ask them if they have actually had any trials or appeals involving Florida bank accounts. Good luck.