Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Alabama

Laws pertaining to bank account of a deceased person

My grandfather passed away and my mom has been on his checking account for over 5 years. Is the account considered a ''joint'' account and is the money in the account considered hers now? Or will it have to be divided up with the other property?

Asked on 7/25/03, 8:02 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Wayne Wisong Wayne Wisong, Attorney at Law
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Re: Laws pertaining to bank account of a deceased person

Mr. Field is right. I will add, just for your further understanding, some basics about bank account title and title in general. Your mom's name "being on" the account could mean a number of things. If it's a "joint" account, it presumptively became hers as of his death and would not be part of the estate. If it was a "common" account, his part would become part of his estate. If it was a "simple trust" account, it would presumptively be the beneficiary of the trust. So, the starting place is to go to the bank and ask them to show you the signature cards for the account so you can figure out what you are dealing with.

There are also many circumstances where so-called "constructive trusts" are imposed. This might be, for example, that it can be shown that they intended that she would manage the property temporarily and would then turn it back ove to him, and the form in which it was held was subject to a specific understanding between them that, no matter how held, it would go back to him.

If the amount of money involved is large, you may end up needing a lawyer. You can always contact me at wwisong@earthlink.net

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7/26/03, 10:56 am
Charles W. Field Charles W. Field, Attorney at Law
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Re: Laws pertaining to bank account of a deceased person

It depends on the documentation with the bank as well as the overall fact situation. If the account documentation has survivorship language, your mom may now own the money. On the other hand, other heirs may make an argument that your mom was only acting in a trustee-type position, safeguarding the money for the estate until your grandfather passed away. You should consult with a local attorney.

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7/25/03, 5:56 pm

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