Challenging a Joint Account

Challenging a Joint Account

Background

When a person dies, his will determines who gets his property. If he doesn’t have a will, then the law of descent and distribution determines who gets his property. Pay on Death (POD) and joint accounts with right of survivorship are different.

Financial accounts like checking, savings, CD’s, brokerage accounts and retirements accounts are not probate assets and they are not part of the decedent’s property if they have a beneficiary designation. The beneficiary gets the account and they are not divided between the heirs. What happens if you think something is wrong and the decedent was taken advantage of and this type of account should go to probate and be divided among the heirs, not given to the beneficiary? This article will discuss that issue.

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Challenging a joint account

Paperwork is not in order

To challenge a POD or joint account with right of survivorship is not easy but there are ways to do it. The first thing to learn is whether or not the paperwork at the financial institution is in order. Texas requires specific words and forms to create such an account and if the paperwork is not in order, the account goes to the estate and not the beneficiary. Where the paperwork is not in order, you can challenge the account based on a fiduciary relationship between the beneficiary and the decedent or challenge the account based on the intent of the decedent to share the account with other beneficiaries. You can ask the probate court to determine who gets the money in the accounts. But what happens if the paperwork is in order?

Paperwork is in order

If the paperwork is in order, you can’t challenge the account based on a fiduciary relationship between the beneficiary and the decedent or challenge the account based on the intent of the decedent to share the account with other beneficiaries. Because the paperwork is in order, other evidence is not admissible to change the account contract.

What can you do? The account can be challenged based on the decedent’s lack of mental capacity to contract at the time the beneficiary designation was changed or added. This is similar to contesting a will based on lack of testamentary capacity. Filing the proper paperwork in the probate court, obtaining admissible evidence and presenting it in the proper manner to the court at the proper time is what needs to be done to challenge these accounts. 

Take away

If someone is claiming that they own a financial account because they were designated as a beneficiary, don’t take that on face value. Have your attorney look into the accounts and determine to whom they belong.

Disclaimer

Necessary Disclaimer: Do not take, or refrain from taking, any action based on what you read. You need to discuss your situation with an attorney who can advise you based on your facts.

If you have a question about a pending or anticipated lawsuit about contesting a will in Texas, use the Contact Us page at the top of the site to see if we can help.

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Robert Ray is the Editor and owner of this site. Board Certified, Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We handle cases throughout Texas. Our principal office is in Lantana, Texas (DFW area).

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Start Here to Learn About Texas Inheritance

Testate Succession

When a person dies with a valid will or an invalid will that has not been contested, his property goes to the persons named in the will.

Intestate Succession

When a person dies in Texas without a will, or when a will is successfully contested, his property goes through intestate succession if he does not have an older, valid will that can be probated. You may find yourself wondering what happens to that person’s estate (their belongings, finances, etc). What are Texas inheritance laws regarding intestate succession? How is it split and who has rights to it?

This article will get you started in the right direction to learn more about your rights. We’ve included links to more information to help you find what you need to know for your unique situation.

Property Subject to Probate in Texas

Not all property is treated the same under inheritance laws. The kind of property owned at death as well as the form in which it is held determine to whom the property is distributed at death.

For instance, if you have a life insurance policy, you will have someone named as a beneficiary. The person named beneficiary on that account will receive those benefits rather than the funds being distributed by inheritance law. The same applies to bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc. if they have a beneficiary named.

For more information on how property is categorized under the law, click here.

Inheritance Rights of Spouses

In the absence of a will, the spouse of the deceased has a legal claim to a portion of the estate, but what proportion of that estate depends on a number of factors including whether or not there were children, whose children they were, whether the deceased parents are still living, and whether or not the deceased had any (living) siblings.

To learn more about the inheritance rights of spouses, click here.

Children‘s Inheritance Rights in Texas

Where there is no will, or a will has been successfully contested, children inherit the bulk of the deceased’s estate. This is true of natural born children as well as adopted children.

Some cases involving illegitimate children, pretermitted (forgotten) children, or children whose adoptions weren’t official can sometimes be more complicated, though in most cases these children have equal inheritance rights to natural children.

Inheritance Rights of Family Members Other Than Spouses and Children

Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and others are heirs for the purpose of distributing the estate of the deceased if he died intestate and if the deceased had no spouse or children. Even if the deceased had a spouse but no children, the other relatives may be entitled to some of the property. The rule is, if you can’t go down the family tree because there are no children, you go up then out on to the branches to determine who inherits.

 

The rest of this article is the old webpage that we had in place of the information that you just read. You can read it although you will see that it is a repeat of what has been said. The above information is an easier read and less lawyerly than the paragraphs below but they contain essentially the same information.

 

Background

When a persons dies without a will or when a will is successfully contested , the laws of descent and distribution determine who inherits the estate of the decedent.  In this general article, we will lead you to answers as to the types of property subject to inheritance as well as the inheritance rights of spouses, children and other family members.

Property subject to inheritance laws

The kind of property owned at death as well as the form in which it is held determine to whom the property is distributed on death.

Inheritance rights of spouses

Inheritance rights of natural children

  1. Adopted children.
  2. Adopted children’s inheritance from their biological parents also here.
  3. Forgotten or pretermitted children.
  4. Illegitimate children also here.

Inheritance rights of family members other than spouses and children

If you don’t see what you are looking for, try the search function.

Your Privacy

We take your privacy very seriously. We are keenly aware of the trust you place in us and our responsibility to protect your privacy. We treat all information provided to us with care and discretion.

Robert Ray is Board Certified

Robert Ray is the Editor and owner of this site. Board Certified, Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

We handle cases throughout Texas. Our principal office is in Lantana, Texas (DFW area).

Robert Ray Texas Inheritance

Click here to email us or to go to the contact form if you want to contact us about a Texas inheritance dispute.

Address

Lantana, Texas
In the DFW area

Phone

(214) 660-5700

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Contesting a will in Texas

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