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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

She Should Have Waited Until Mom Died

Joint bank account cases often make for interesting reading. Here is an interesting case from Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals, issued on October 19, 2005.

Facts:
a. Mom opens a bank account with daughter - the account is held as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.
b. Daughter withdraws money from the account for her own use.
c. Mom does not agree to the withdrawal and asks for the money back.
d. Mom dies, and her estate demands the money back from daughter.
e. Daughter argues that since Florida law says that a bank can pay the assets from a joint account to one of the joint account holders without consulting the other, and that since she would have gotten the funds when mom dies, she can keep the money.

Decision: Daughter owes the money back. The Court held that (i) the above Florida law is for the protection of the bank, and does not create legal entitlements to ownership of assets in a joint account, (ii) that daughter would have gotten the money when mom died is irrelevant to what occurs during lifetime, and (iii) authorization to withdraw the funds is not the same thing as authorization to use the funds for personal benefit.
Observation: If daughter had left the money in mom's account until mom died, there's a good chance she would have gotten all the funds!

Sandler v. Jaffe, 30 Fla. L. Weekly D2446a (4th DCA 2005)
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