Estate Planning and Creating Joint Bank Accounts

BaskinFleece lawyer Jay FleecePitfalls of Joint Accounts – by Joseph W. Fleece, III

A common problem today in estate planning is the unintended consequences of joint bank accounts. Recently, a client called and told me that while he was at his bank, the account representative suggested that he should put his niece on his account so that she could pay his bills if something happened to him.

Luckily, this client was smart enough to call his attorney to find out if that was a good idea. I told him that he had already signed a durable power of attorney and that document would give his niece full power and authority to deal with his bank account, plus much more, if something happened to him. I then went on to explain what would have happened had he followed the advice of the young account representative.

Estate planning and joint accounts

I told him, based upon my experiences, the account representative would have had him sign a new signature card for his bank account. His niece would have been listed as a joint tenant with right of survivorship. Upon his death all the funds in that account would have passed directly to his niece totally bypassing the estate plan he had set up under his will.

Many times the account representative is only trained to follow the bank’s procedures without being instructed on the consequences of his or her actions. The account representative is trained to prepare new account signature forms, which represent the contract with the bank, and then sets up the new account as being with the “right of survivorship.” Most bank forms only have two choices, individual or joint with right of survivorship.

Even though the bank customer believes that the niece, or whomever they designate, will only have signing privileges and no ownership in the account, the account contract specifies otherwise. Unbelievably, most bank contract forms do not have an option for the account to be a “convenience” account where the second name on the account has no ownership interest and is merely on the account for the convenience.

This problem becomes worse when unscrupulous “helpers” have figured out that it is much easier to take advantage of an unsuspecting elderly person with the help of a bank rather than trying to unduly influence the elderly person into making a new will. A savvy fraudster merely has to convince the elderly person that it might be helpful if they went down to the bank branch and have the “helper’s” name added as a “signer” to the bank account under the guise that the “helper” would be authorized to sign checks for the elderly friend. The “helper” knows full well what the ultimate consequences will be with the creation of a new survivorship account.

 

 

Best Practice Signing of a Will and Estate Documents

Best practice signing estate documents

Click above title to watch the video.

Estate planning: This 3 minute video explains the Best Practice when signing a will and estate documents. In this estate planning video from Hamden Baskin, an estate litigation lawyer – hear how he challenges the signing of estate documentation and how to help your position in case of potential litigation.

 

Baskin Fleece was named one of the Best Law Firms in U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 rankings, receiving a tier two distinction for the Tampa metro area in the Law firm in Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburgfield of trusts and estates litigation. Firms honored by U.S. News & World Report are recognized for “professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers.”

Selection is based on lawyer and client evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys, and review of additional information provided by law firms. To be eligible, firms must also have a lawyer included in The Best Lawyers in America, which honors the top four percent of practicing attorneys in the country.

What is Probate Administration, and What if there’s No Will?

Wills

Probate administration is the process whereby a will is admitted to probate (and thereby deemed to be the “last will”) by the probate judge, who supervises the administration. During the probate of the decedent’s estate, creditors are paid by the personal representative, who is appointed by the judge and is normally someone nominated as personal representative in a will.

If there is no will, a family member is given priority to serve as personal representative. The personal representative then marshals/gathers all assets belonging to the decedent known to exist, and after paying all creditors, federal and state taxes owed and administrative expenses, the estate assets, including cash, are distributed to the beneficiaries. This process is automatically scheduled for one year by Florida law for a non-taxable estate and two years in the event a Form 706 Federal Estate Tax Return is required. Many times the estate administration of a will can be effected from start to finish in much less time.

BaskinFleece handles all aspects of wills and probate administration. For more information click BaskinFleece, or call us at 727.572.4545.

BaskinFleece was named one of the Best Law Firms in US News & World Report’s 2015 rankings, receiving a tier two distinction for the Tampa metro area in the field of trusts2015 Best Law firm and estates litigation. Firms included in the list are recognized for “professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers.” Selection is based on lawyer and client evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys, and review of additional information provided by the law firm. To be eligible, firms must also have at least one lawyer listed in the 19th edition of The Best Lawyers in America.