Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
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Is she on as an authorized signer only or is she a joint owner of the account?
Okay, thanks for the information. Unfortunately, she is legally entitled to full ownership of the account. Property passes in several ways on a person's death: 1) by operation of law, 2) by trust, and 3) by probate (either with a will or without a will (intestate)). One of the forms of passing by operation of law is when property passes to a surviving joint tenant. The deceased joint tenant's interest in the property ceases to exist on that person's death so that the surviving joint tenant then owns all interest in the property. The property never becomes part of the deceased person's probate estate, so that person's will (or the laws of intestate succession if there is no will) does not come into play and is irrelevant as to who owns the property.
The only argument that can be made is that your sister was added to the account as a matter of convenience and that adding her as a joint owner was not intended to confer to her absolute ownership on your father's death.
This can be a very difficult argument to make and in my experience is never successful unless there is something in writing that clearly shows the intent was just for convenience (such as a note somewhere).
If you wanted to make such an argument, you would do so as representative of your father's probate estate (after filing a petition for probate, getting the probate opened, the will admitted, and someone appointed as representative).
It's one of those things you would normally only consider when the value of the account is substantial. Otherwise, it would not be worth pursuing given the time and costs involved in trying to win such an argument (lots of attorney fees, court costs, etc.).
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Was it in your name only or were you a joint owner with him? Or was it in his name but named you as beneficiary?
I'm sorry to say it, but if you were only the beneficiary, he had the right to cash out the CD and put it in his name and your sister's name as joint owners, which means that she is now the sole owner of the account (unless you're successful making the argument mentioned). However, given the facts, it would be an even more difficult argument because the money was more of an investment since it was a CD and she wasn't added simply to have access to pay bills, etc.
You're welcome. I'm sorry I couldn't provide a different answer. Have a great night!