Recently in Contested estates Category

The dangers of joint accounts (3 of 3): who's the owner?

April 25, 2013, by


man in wheelchair with girl.jpgSondra was helping Uncle Rudolph with his finances, so he put quite a bit of his money in an account in both of their names. He made them joint tenants of the account with right of survivorship, meaning that if one of them died, the other would get all the money. The evidence indicated this was what he intended. Rudolph got cancer and started to fail. Sondra was aware that there were other helpers and it seemed there was a risk one of them would write checks for Rudolph or otherwise access his money. So Sondra took $113,900 out of the joint account to protect it.

Then Rudolph died and other niece Edwina became his executor. Edwina sued Sondra for taking Rudolph's money without authorization.

The trial court ruled for Sondra, determining that Rudolph made a gift to Sondra when he established the joint account. So she was justified in withdrawing funds while he was still living. Any remaining balance in the account passed to her upon his death under Revised Code of Washington 30.22.100(3): "Funds belonging to a deceased depositor which remain on deposit in a joint account with right of survivorship belong to the surviving depositors unless there is clear and convincing evidence of a contrary intent at the time the account was created."

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The dangers of joint accounts (2 of 3), and in this case, Durable Powers of Attorney.

April 18, 2013, by

meeting with broker.jpgAlfred and Sarah named their kids, or at least two of them, Don and Dawn. These homophonic siblings ended up opposing each other in Court. After dad died, Dawn got a Durable Power of Attorney to act for Sarah, and put a bunch of mom's money in an account with Edward Jones titled in their two names as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Dawn made some gifts and loans to friends from this fund, but when mom died there was still more than $400,000 in the account. Dawn took it by right of survivorship, and put it in her own account at the same broker.

When mom died, brother Don was Trustee of her Living Trust that served in effect as her Will (see our earlier blogs on Living Trusts). Apparently most of the trust was to go to charity, but despite a lessened self-interest Don went to Court to challenge Dawn's taking the Edward Jones account by survivorship, claiming that as mom's property it should be part of her trust instead.

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The dangers of joint accounts (1 of 3).

April 11, 2013, by

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Widow Maria died and left her modest home to handyman Terry and his wife. Her Will also made gifts to two nuns and her church, with the bulk of her roughly $700,000 estate going to two cousins of her late husband. Rose, one of those cousins, was named as Personal Representative (executor).

There was a question, though, whether Maria's Will controlled her whole estate. She had in her last weeks established a joint bank account with Terry, and put some $234,000 into it. The law is that this joint account, having been set up with right of survivorship (JTWROS), passed automatically to Terry, apart from Maria's Will, unless Rose could show "by clear and convincing evidence" that Maria intended otherwise (Revised Code of Washington 30.22.100).

Instead of taking the funds by survivorship and forcing Rose to sue him, Terry gave the funds to the estate and then sued to get them back, on the same statute creating the presumption in his favor. He won in the trial court, but the estate appealed.

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Are Wills made during marriage binding on the surviving spouse (cont'd)?

March 28, 2013, by

two guys arguing.jpg In its 2012 decision In Re Estate of Kazmark, the Washington Court of Appeals resolved the question whether Earle Sr. was bound by agreement with his predeceased spouse Barbara, to keep his Will in place that benefited her family as well as his.

Barbara's son Shane first had to rebut Earle Jr.'s assertion that Earle Sr. and Barbara's Community Property Agreement superseded their Wills and any agreement under which the Wills were made. The Community Property Agreement did override the Wills in a sense. It was used upon Barbara's death to transfer the whole estate to Earle Sr. without the necessity of probating or otherwise using Barbara's Will at all. But the Court didn't have much trouble refusing Earle Jr. on this one. The Community Property Agreement was entirely consistent with the Wills, accomplishing more easily what Barbara's Will would have done upon her death. Because it only supported the work of the 2005 Wills, the Community Property didn't supersede or otherwise negate them or any agreement they represented.

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Are Wills made during marriage binding on the surviving spouse?

March 21, 2013, by

widower at funeral.jpgWhen Earle Sr. died in July of 2009, Earle Jr. sought to probate the nine-day-old Will that left the residue of his father's estate to him. Earle Sr. had become wealthy by most people's standards, by marrying Barbara in 1985 and then surviving her in 2009. This turn of events was not pleasing to Barbara's son Shane, who would have received half the estate under her 2005 Will had Barbara had survived Earle Sr.

Earle Sr. had actually done a Will just like Barbara's in 2005. It and a Community Property Agreement gave all to the surviving spouse, and then, after both of their lifetimes, half to his family and half to Shane. Then a flurry of events in 2009 threatened Shane's share. Barbara died and Earle Sr. got all her estate. Then he changed his Will to favor Earle Jr. and cut Shane out. This is a risk in any case where each spouse has his or her own children, and the estate plan puts all in the hands of whichever spouse survives.

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Estate of Lint: women & men...

November 10, 2011, by

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We found in our earlier review of Endicott v. Saul that aggression clothed as friendship can be rewarding. How about romance for gain?

Wealthy widow Estelle was 60 when she met Christian on the Seattle social scene. He was 42. The Washington Supreme Court, in its 1998 opinion on the case, says they "struck up a friendship and began dating." Your reviewer here, no expert on the subject, senses from his own wife's use of the term that there are as many meanings to "dating" as there are living things in the ocean.

Four years later, Estelle had cancer that went to her brain. Her relationship with Christian intensified. He hired his own people to care for her and closed her off from others. She got sicker, and incoherent. Yet after a hospice worker had called her speech "word salad," and she engaged in behaviors that would be funny on an English comedy show (but are tragic here), Christian took her to Las Vegas to marry her.

Failing the formalities in their first attempt at the We've Only Just Begun Wedding Chapel, Christian managed to put together a marriage certificate and a reverend in their hotel room to (seemingly) get the job done. This in the same week when medical personnel described her in their own fascinating language as "aphasic" and "perseverating and parroting."

A month later Estelle signed a new Will in favor of Christian. The next month she died. What outcomes?

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