Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
Hi, I will be happy to assist you, and it is my goal to make you a very satisfied customer! This may take a few minutes, so thanks for your patience.
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.).
Please let me know if I can provide additional assistance. If not, I would be grateful if you could please leave me a positive rating. I cannot receive credit for my work without your positive rating and that is the sole means of compensation for JustAnswer experts. Please keep in mind you are rating my professionalism and service, not whether the law is favorable (although I wish I could always say that it was).
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!
DISCLAIMER: Answers from Experts on JustAnswer are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. JustAnswer is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Expert above is not your attorney, and the response above is not legal advice. You should not read this response to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law that might affect the situation you describe. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction to which your question pertains.
The responses above are from individual Experts, not JustAnswer. The site and services are provided “as is”. To view the verified credential of an Expert, click on the “Verified” symbol in the Expert’s profile. This site is not for emergency questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals. Please carefully read the Terms of Service (last updated February 8, 2012).