Joint Bank Account

Should You Use a Joint Bank Account & Death Beneficiary to Avoid Probate?

The probate process is complex, and some people will take steps to avoid it. Additionally, probate proceedings are also a matter of public record. To avoid probate, one of the things some people do is name another person as joint owner of property such as a joint bank account or real estate. When there is a joint bank account at death, the surviving owner automatically becomes the sole owner of the entire bank account or other joint asset. A New York City probate lawyer can explain how this process unfolds.

Owning assets jointly with another can be a simple way to distribute an estate. However, problems can arise where the joint ownership was created only for the convenience of the asset owner during their lifetime and did not actually reflect their desires as to the distribution of their property upon death. In fact, the distribution of the entire asset to the surviving joint owner upon death may directly conflict with the decedent’s estate plan as set forth in a Will. Unfortunately, the automatic nature of the transfer of joint assets generally cannot be circumvented by the more general language of the decedent’s Will. 

This situation is a very common cause of Estate Litigation in the Surrogate's Court, with which an estate attorney is familiar.  A typical case may involve a child who lives with or near a parent. Although the parent has created a Last Will leaving all of his assets equally to all children, unknowingly, the parent puts the one child on the bank account as a joint owner so that the child can help the parent with his daily bills and finances. When the parent dies, the entire joint account automatically becomes the property of the one child and the provisions in the Will do not apply.

New York City attorneys, as well as those throughout the state, are aware that planning an estate requires understanding the nature and ownership of all of the assets involved.  At their own peril, many people do not pay close enough attention to the names they put on their assets and then probate litigation occurs where family members allege undue influence and improper conduct on the part of individuals who benefit from these oversights.

An estate lawyer can review your situation to determine what is best for you.

I was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1979 and admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1982 after graduating in the top 10% of my class at The New England School of Law in Boston. I was admitted to the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit and the United States District Court for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. I started my own law practice as an attorney in New York City in 1985. I have many years of experience successfully working with and advising clients in creating and executing plans that effectively express their personal desires regarding the disposition and protection of assets. I do this while providing potential tax advantages and security for family and beneficiaries.

For personalized attentive service from a New York City lawyer, please call (212) 355-2575 or arrange to visit me at 845 Third Avenue, Suite 1400, New York, NY 10022 (near 52nd Street).