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Contract & Business

What Happens When One of the Members of a Joint Account Passes Away?

By March 2, 2022No Comments


Imagine you own a joint account in your name and in the name of a business partner. Tragically, your partner passes away and you remain the only alive member of that joint account.

The Bank Account agreement does not state anything regarding what happens when one of the members of the account dies. What is then your status? Does the remaining balance belong to you, the survivor, 100%?

The answer is yes. Florida Statutes § 655.79. (1) addresses exactly this situation. It states in pertinent part that:

“(1) Unless otherwise expressly provided in a contract, agreement, or signature card executed in connection with the opening or maintenance of an account, including a certificate of deposit, a deposit account in the names of two or more persons shall be presumed to have been intended by such persons to provide that, upon the death of any one of them, all rights, title, interest, and claim in, too, and in respect of such deposit account, less all proper setoffs and charges in favor of the institution, vest in the surviving person or persons. Any deposit or account made in the name of two persons who are husband and wife shall be considered a tenancy by the entirety unless otherwise specified in writing.”

In other words, upon the death of the joint owner of the account, the account’s remaining balance “vests” (passes) to the survivor owner of the account. This is what the law calls generally the “right of survivorship.”

Florida Courts have addressed § 655.79. In In re Estate of Herring, the Florida First District Court of Appeals held that the following when interpreting the statute:

“We conclude that section 655.79(1) is free of any ambiguity in prescribing that a bank account, “including a certificate of deposit,” that is opened or maintained “in the names of two or more persons shall be presumed to have been intended by such persons” that upon the death of any of them ownership passes to the survivors unless the document creating the account expressly provides otherwise. It is patently clear from the language of this statute that no explicit words indicating survivorship need be used for this rebuttable presumption to arise. Accordingly, we hold that failure to include the language of survivorship on the certificate, in this case, did not preclude the application of the statutory presumption of ownership. To that extent, we disagree with the trial court’s construction of this statute.” Herring v. Henderson (In re Estate of Herring), 670 So. 2d 145, 148 (Fla. 1st DCA 1996).

If you have a dispute regarding ownership of bank accounts, contact a commercial lawyer at Ayala at 305-570-2208 or email attorney Eduardo A. Maura at eduardo@ayalalawpa.com.

 

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