The case of Jordan v. Jordan (unpublished) represents another example of a legal challenge to the validity of a joint account with right of survivorship that was established very soon after the person establishing the joint account executed his Will.
The case presents a simple scenario. A executed a Will that divided A’s Estate equally between A’s four (4) children. Soon after signing the Will, A goes to the bank with one of the four (4) children and opens a joint account with right of survivorship with that child.
A subsequently dies, and A’s three (3) other children challenge the validity of the joint account with right of survivorship, contending that the account violated A’s intent as reflected in A’s Will.
In this case, the allegations ranged from undue influence, to incompetency, to the violation of a fiduciary relationship (by the child who was included in the joint account). However, the Plaintiff’s did not offer any evidence, by affidavit or otherwise, to support their allegations.
The Defendant (the child included in the joint account) relied on the bank signature cards that were executed when the new account was opened plus an affidavit by the bank employee who handled the opening of the joint account.
The trial court granted Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling of the trial court.
The opinion did not disclose the amount of the funds involved in the joint account. However, it must have been sufficient to trigger a lawsuit as well as an appeal to the Court of Appeals. Then again, the challenge to the validity of the account may have been based on principle rather than the amount in the account.
The moral of the story is that when a joint account with right of survivorship is created soon after an individual signs a Will providing for the equal division of his or her estate, and the joint account includes the individual and only one of the individual’s heirs/beneficiaries, the chances are good that the validity of the joint account will be challenged following the individual’s death.
This is similar to, but different from, those situations where an individual inadvertently establishes a joint account with right of survivorship with one of the individual’s beneficiaries rather than a personal agency (Power of Attorney) account. The individual’s intent is to authorize someone else to write checks on the account rather than to have the funds in the account pass to the surviving joint owner upon the individual’s death. Either of these scenarios contains the potential for a legal challenge to the validity of the joint account upon the individual’s death.
A written statement clearly indicating the individual’s intent to establish a bona fide joint account with right of survivorship, might avoid a legal challenge to the validity of the account following the individual’s death.