Can You be Sentenced to Prison if You Spend Money From a Joint Account?

Robert Ray

no-contest-s-Fotolia_10685421_XSYes you can, says the Amarillo Court of Appeals in a 2013 case. The court noted that it is not often that civil and criminal precepts collide in a criminal prosecution but this one was one of those cases.

A woman and her father-in-law opened a joint account. The money, about $200,000, belonged to the father-in-law. The woman took money out of the account and spent it for personal items. She claimed that she was a joint owner of the funds and had a right to withdraw them. The court, in upholding her sentence, said while under civil law she had the right to withdraw the funds that did not make them her funds. They still belonged to the father-in-law. When she spent the funds for personal items, she committed the crime of theft. 07-12-00435-CR.

In probate matters, joint accounts with right of survivorship are frequently at issue. Let’s assume that the decedent has a will that leaves everything to her two children. She also has an account in a bank. One of the children convinces mom that she can assist in caring for mom’s financial interest. Through habit or at the instructions of the daughter, the bank fills out the forms to convert the account to a joint account with right of survivorship. When mom dies, the will controls the disposition of mom’s property except for accounts in financial institutions such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, CD’s, etc. These are controlled by the beneficiary designation on the accounts. In the case of the joint bank account, the child on that account will often claim the whole account, “mom wanted me to have it all.” This often leads to litigation over the ownership of the account. As this case points out, just because you are listed on a joint account with right of survivorship doesn’t necessarily make the funds yours.

Copyright by Robert Ray a Texas inheritance attorney. The foregoing information is general in nature and does not apply to every fact situation. If you are concerned about inheritance laws, inheritance rights, have a family inheritance dispute, a property dispute or want information about contesting a will and need an inheritance lawyer, we can help. Please go to our main site and use the contact form to contact us today. We are Texas inheritance lawyers and would love to learn about your case and there is no fee for the initial consultation.


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Robert Ray

Robert Ray handles inheritance disputes of all kinds. He takes cases throughout Texas.
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