Q: My mother died in October 2018. We had a joint checking account with Right of S. Does it go through probate?
We are in probate. My niece is fighting my mom's will and accusing me of hiding my mom's money. This is an account that is for business purposes only, no checks. It is a Reserve Account with a hold on the funds from the bank to pay our monthly mortgage. I don't have access to the account; only my banker has access. He pays taxes and insurance, that type of thing out of the account. Do I have to turn those bank records over to the Personal Representative?
A: There is a very, very strong presumption that a bank account that is titled as joint tenants with right of survivorship goes to the survivor upon the death of the other account holder, and the bank can safely turn over the funds to the survivor without requiring probate.
However, if someone who doesn't like that result can prove with very strong evidence that the deceased account holder did not intend for the funds to go to the survivor, that presumption can be overcome, but this is quite rare.
You should obtain from the bank copies of the documents that the decedent signed showing that the account was to be titled as joint tenants with right of survivorship and provide that to your niece. That might end her pursuit.
You don't have to turn any records over to the personal representative unless ordered to do so by the probate court, but if you have access to the records it might preserve family harmony if you go ahead and turn them over voluntarily to show that you have nothing to hide.
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