Joint Bank Account After Death: Who Gets the Money? (2024)

When a loved one dies, the last thing on people’s minds is what will happen to their joint bank account. But, like it or not, money matters must be handled for estates and assets to be passed down correctly. The question “Who gets the money?” often leaves survivors at a loss.

This article dives deep into joint bank accounts after death and outlines who should receive the funds contained within them. It looks closely at legal documents, state laws, financial institutions, and other relevant agencies that govern how these situations are handled.

Understanding Joint Bank Accounts

A joint bank account is a type of bank account that is opened by two or more people. This type of account allows all account holders to deposit and withdraw money, write checks, and conduct other banking transactions.

In most cases, each account holder has equal ownership of the account and is responsible for any debts or overdrafts on the account.

Joint bank accounts can be useful for couples, business partners, or family members who need to share access to funds. However, it’s important to carefully consider the terms and conditions of the account and ensure that all account holders understand their rights and responsibilities.

Who Owns the Money in a Joint Bank Account After Death?

If all parties in a joint bank account are deceased, sorting out financial affairs becomes muddled. But if at least one party is still alive and holds legal ownership over the assets within an account, they will get to keep them—or at least have control over how they’re distributed.

The surviving co-owner can access their partner’s funds in a joint account. This means that even if there’s no formal agreement stating what should happen with the funds when one person dies, the remaining account holder may take full control per banking laws.

However, this doesn’t mean that other stakeholders, such as family members, won’t try to claim rights over those monies. Things like wills or trusts must also be considered depending on where the deceased partner falls in relation to estate planning before passing away. A joint right of survivorship account controls estate planning. All these factors make navigating through complex decisions surrounding joint accounts tricky.

Common Rules and Regulations Regarding Joint Bank Accounts and Death

Joint bank accounts come with various rules and regulations for dealing with death:

  • Rights of survivorship — Generally if one account holder passes away, the remaining partner has full access to the money in the account.
  • POD (Payable On Death) — This designation allows you to name someone else as a beneficiary on your joint account so they will receive all funds upon each owner’s passing without going through probate court.
  • Bank policies — Banks may also have specific policies regarding how you should treat joint accounts upon death depending on state law and individual agreements between each party involved in the transaction.

It’s important for those holding joint bank accounts to understand these common rules and regulations before entering into such an arrangement. This ensures that everyone knows exactly what will happen should tragedy strike.

How to Determine Who Is Entitled to the Money in a Joint Bank Account After Death

To make sure that funds are distributed correctly, it is important to understand who is entitled to the money.

To decide who gets the money from a joint bank account after the death of all owners:

  • Check for any existing beneficiaries listed on file with the bank or financial institution holding the funds in question.
  • Determine whether or not state probate laws apply and take precedence over previously set beneficiary designations made during life.
  • Consider non-probated accounts where if no beneficiary is listed, remaining monies could potentially go directly to those named as survivors on legal documents such as wills.

With this information, all parties can rest assured knowing that their rights regarding distributing a joint bank account after death are fully protected!

What to Do If There Is No Surviving Party Entitled to the Money in a Joint Bank Account After Death

If there is no surviving party entitled to the money in a joint bank account after the death of all account holders, the funds in the joint account may be considered part of the deceased account holder’s estate. In this case, an executor or administrator must be appointed by a probate court to access the funds and close out all financial accounts.

The executor must prove that the deceased owner has died and submit paperwork (Letters Testamentary, for example) to close the joint bank account. Other documents might also be required depending on the specific circ*mstances and laws governing estates within each state.

Work with an experienced estate planning lawyer to ensure all legal requirements are met, and proper procedures are followed when closing and distributing a joint bank account after death.

Call Your Legacy Legal Care™ Today

Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is crucial if you have concerns about the distribution of funds in a joint bank account after the death of an account holder. Our law firm specializes in complex estate planning issues, including the distribution of assets in joint accounts.

Our team can review the terms and conditions of your joint account and develop a customized estate plan that addresses your unique needs. Don’t leave the distribution of your assets to chance.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation with a member of our Your Legacy Legal Care™ team to ensure your wishes are respected, and your loved ones are provided for.

Author Bio

Joint Bank Account After Death: Who Gets the Money? (1)

Kimberly Hegwood is the Managing Attorney of Your Legacy Legal Care, a Houston estate planning law firm. With more than 25 years of experience practicing law in Texas, she represents clients in a wide range of legal matters, including elder law, asset protection, estate planning, Medicaid crisis planning, probate, guardianship, and other estate planning practice areas.

Kimberly received her Juris Doctor from the South Texas College of Law and is a member of the State Bar of Texas.

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Joint Bank Account After Death: Who Gets the Money? (2024)


Joint Bank Account After Death: Who Gets the Money? ›

The surviving co-owner can access their partner's funds in a joint account. This means that even if there's no formal agreement stating what should happen with the funds when one person dies, the remaining account holder may take full control per banking laws.

What happens to money that is in a joint checking account when one person dies? ›

Joint bank account holders generally have the right of survivorship, which grants the surviving account holder ownership of the entire account balance. The surviving account holder retains ownership regardless of which owner contributed the money, and the account doesn't go through the probate process.

Who is entitled to money in a joint bank account? ›

A joint account functions like a standard account, such as a checking or savings account, and allows anyone named on the account to access its funds. All owners can withdraw cash, write checks, and make online payments.

Who is the beneficiary of a joint bank account? ›

Joint Account Beneficiaries

A beneficiary gets the money in the account upon the passing of all account holders. Any living joint account holder can change the account's beneficiaries at any time. In a joint account organized under the right of survivorship, all of the funds will go to the surviving account holder.

Does a joint bank account automatically go to the surviving spouse? ›

In the majority of cases, when one of the owners of a joint account passes away, ownership automatically passes on to the surviving member (or members). Because of this, joint accounts typically avoid the extensive probate process that other accounts can be subject to.

Who owns the money in a joint bank account when one dies? ›

Broadly speaking, if the account has what is termed the “right of survivorship,” all the funds pass directly to the surviving owner. If not, the share of the account belonging to the deceased owner is distributed through his or her estate.

Does a joint bank account become part of an estate? ›

If there is no surviving party entitled to the money in a joint bank account after the death of all account holders, the funds in the joint account may be considered part of the deceased account holder's estate.

Do joint bank accounts automatically have right of survivorship? ›

Right of Survivorship by Default: Generally, joint bank accounts are presumed to have rights of survivorship unless otherwise specified.

How do you know if your bank account has right of survivorship? ›

Generally, and in the past, the most important factor in determining whether a joint account is with rights of survivorship is whether the bank signature card establishing the account identifies the interests of the parties as being with rights of survivorship.

Can one person take all money on joint bank account? ›

Each account owner can get a debit card, write checks and make purchases. Both account holders can also add funds or withdraw them from the account. The money in joint accounts belongs to both owners. Either person can withdraw or spend the money at will — even if they weren't the one to deposit the funds.

Is bank joint considered an inheritance? ›

Joint Bank Accounts Are Considered Part of an Individual's Estate: Joint bank accounts are considered part of an individual's estate for Inheritance Tax purposes.

Is a joint account considered an inheritance? ›

If the surviving joint owner is not a spouse, then the fair market value of the entire account will be included in the decedent's estate. If the surviving joint owner is the surviving spouse, then only 50% of the fair market value is included in the value of the decedent's estate.

Can I sue someone for taking money from a joint account? ›

If your ex-partner takes money from your joint account or runs up debt on your joint credit card without your permission, you may be able to sue them in court. However, it can be difficult to win these cases. You should consult with an attorney to discuss your legal options.

How do banks know when someone dies? ›

The next of kin must notify their banks of the death when an account holder dies. This is usually done by delivering a certified copy of the death certificate to the bank, along with the deceased's name and Social Security number, bank account numbers, and other information.

Why are joint bank accounts bad? ›

Lack of privacy: While keeping secrets is never a great idea in relationships, you and your partner may want some degree of privacy in how you spend your money, which you won't get from having joint accounts. It could also be harder to pull off gifts for each other if your partner can see every purchase you make.

Can a poa withdraw money from a joint bank account? ›

Each person on the account has the legal authority to use the entire account balance for any reason. In contrast, a person holding a power of attorney also has access to the grantor's bank account, but he or she is legally required to use those funds for the benefit of the grantor.

Can you withdraw money from a deceased person's joint account? ›

You will need to provide documentation to prove both that the account holder died and you have the legal authority (as a designated beneficiary, joint account holder or executor/administrator) to access the account.

Are joint bank accounts frozen when one partner dies? ›

Are joint bank accounts frozen when someone dies? In most cases, if an individual forming part of a joint account dies, the surviving account holder will gain full access to the funds and continue to be able to operate the account. The funds do not form part of the deceased estate.

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