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Do you need to probate a joint bank account?

On Behalf of | Dec 22, 2021 | Estate Planning

Sharing an account with a family member is a simple enough process. But Florida probate law can complicate the matter.

Probate determines who gets what after the will-holder passes on. Technically, any financial instrument with the deceased’s name is legally considered part of the estate. But does that include joint accounts?

Is a joint account automatically included in probate?

Not always. If one spouse dies, the survivor is covered by “survivorship.” That means the survivor owns these and other assets (such as insurance) upon their spouse’s passing.

But there is a process. There is a court form to fill out and submit with a copy of the death certification. But, technically, probate won’t be necessary.

Can the money in the account my mom kept my name on for disability purposes be withdrawn?

The bank’s point of view is you can take out the money before your mother passed. But courts use certain criteria after death that make the account part of the estate. Unless you are a sole beneficiary, the situation could generate conflict between you and the estate.

What terms and conditions help avoid joint account probate?

Probate in this matter is avoidable if you establish:

  • A joint account with right of survivorship
  • Create payable on death accounts
  • Create a transfer on death account for stocks, bonds or other securities

These situations are practical if your estate has a single beneficiary. Remember, these people are not obligated to share the assets. They could end up with greater shares of assets than other beneficiaries. These persons might find that a point of contention as the will goes to probate.

As for assets in a joint account, the right of survivorship protects both parties from probate. But they are not suggested for Florida estate planning in general.