Springfield, OR asked in Probate for Oregon

Q: My uncle died intestate. Do I need to disclose to my family and estate lawyer a bank acct he made me joint owner of?

My uncle recently died unexpectedly w/o a will. A week prior he made me PoA on his bank accounts, primary on a Durable PoA, and primary on his Adv Directive. At the same time he made me joint owner of a large bank account, but the bank manager said they'd discussed this months ago and he even returned the next day to confirm it was set up properly. My uncle was in early-mid dementia but the bank manager says he was competent to make this change. She says this is now my bank account and not part of the estate. Do I need to disclose it when we meet with the estate lawyer? There is already contention over who gets to be executor, and my cousin (his nephew) is retaining his own lawyer. FWIW, my cousin has always denied my uncle's cognitive decline, and as recently as a month ago claimed he'd never seen any signs of this. Nonetheless, he is now tossing around the phrase "diminished capacity."

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2 Lawyer Answers

A: There is a difference between being a joint account owner and being the beneficiary named in a pay on death directive. It is not uncommon for joint account owners to mutually designate the other owner as POD, but it is not necessarily automatic.

In most--if not all--US states, money on deposit in a bank account with a valid POD passes outside the probate estate to the named beneficiary. In most--if not all--US states, money on deposit in a joint bank account belongs to the account holders proportionately based upon each owner's contributions to the account. Simplistically, that means if your uncle deposited 90% of the funds held in that account and you deposited 10% of the funds held in that account, you would own 10% of the money on deposit, and your uncle's estate would own 90% of the money on deposit.

I strongly recommend that you find out if there is a POD. Then, you need to discuss this subject with YOUR lawyer.

Theressa Hollis
Theressa Hollis
  • Probate Lawyer
  • Portland, OR
  • Licensed in Oregon

A: Yes, you should disclose this account to your estate attorney. He/she needs to know this information to determine whether or not an Estate Tax Return is required to be filed. This Return reports probate and non-probate assets.

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