Joint Accounts Can Be a Probate Asset

The Executor or Administrator of an estate in the Woodlands Probate Court is responsible for administering the probate estate of the deceased. Sometimes disputes arise concerning exactly what property is included or not included in the probate estate. One common source of confusion is joint accounts held at local banks or other financial institutions. The resolution of these disputes can have a big impact on what the beneficiaries of the estate ultimately receive.

The case of Nipp v. Broumley shows how in certain circumstances a joint account is included and administered in the probate estate even after the other person on the account has cashed and claimed the accounts as their own.

Mrs. Opal Broumley purchased three CDs in the 1980s. She titled the CDs as “Mrs. H.O. Broumley or Terry Broumley.” She renewed the CDs throughout the years and unfortunately passed away from inoperable cancer in 2003. Eight days before Opal Broumley died, Terry cashed the CDs and claimed the funds as his own rather than part of the probate estate.

Connie Nipp noticed the absence of the CDs on the Probate Inventory and had her probate Attorney begin a lawsuit to declare the CDs (valued at $76,000) were part of Opal Bourmley’s probate estate.

In examining the issues the Court was careful to point out the difference between a right of withdrawal and the right of ownership. Both of the parties on the title to the CD had a right to withdraw the funds; however, ownership of a joint account is based on the contribution of each party to the account unless there is clear and convincing evidence of a different intent.

In this particular case the CDs were funded entirely by the deceased and there was not sufficient evidence to overcome the presumption that the deceased intended to retain ownership. The Court ruled the CDs were part of the probate estate and Terry Broumley must restore the funds to the estate.

This is one example of a common mistake people make that can cause problems and complications. Speak with a Woodlands Probate Attorney today if you need assistance with a probate matter in Montgomery County.