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Planning Ahead

Lisa C. Alexander
is with Jakle & Alexander, LLP, a Santa Monica law firm.

The Cost of Convenience 

(Continued from Monthly Columns)

When there is more than one person on an account, the account falls under the rules that apply to “multiple-party” accounts. Under California law, on the death of a party to a joint account, all the money in the account belongs to the other person on the account. This rule was just confirmed by the recent case of Estate of O’Connor.

Betty O’Connor had an Estate Plan that left everything to her son, daughter, and two grandchildren. In the last years of her life, Betty’s daughter helped Betty with her finances, including opening two joint accounts with Betty at Wells Fargo.

When Betty died, under California law the money in the joint accounts all went to the daughter. Nothing went to the son or grandchildren. This was contrary to her Estate Plan and probably not Betty’s intent. But, after her death, there was not enough evidence for the Court to overcome the legal rule.

The moral of the story is don’t let that happen to you or your family. There are alternatives to putting your child on the account. You could make your child a signatory on the account, or you could appoint your child as an agent with power of attorney on the account.

You could put the account in your Trust and name your child as Special Trustee with the power to deal with the account. Under all these alternatives, the child can access the account and help with finances without making it a joint account or making the child an owner of the account.

Lisa C. Alexander, Esq.
1250 Sixth Street, Suite 300
Santa Monica
Main Line: 310-395-6555
Direct Line: 310-656-4310



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