When Is A Joint Account Not A Joint Account In Texas

Robert Ray

Joint Accounts in Texas

Financial accounts do not go through probate. They are non-probate assets.

The financial institution gives the money directly to the beneficiary named in the account.

Inheritance and Joint Accounts

When an account is set up, correctly, as a joint account with right of survivorship, and when both parties have the mental ability to contract, the bank pays the survivor the funds in the account. But what happens if the joint account is not set up properly?


Texas has strict rules about setting up joint accounts. Just because they are named a “joint account with right of survivorship” doesn’t mean they are recognized as such by Texas courts.


In 1998, L.D. Hare opened a checking account at Austin Bank…he added his son, Larry W. Hare, to the … account.

After a short hearing, the trial court found that the account should pass through probate because the evidence was insufficient to prove that the parties had created a joint account with the right of survivorship.


Rules for Joint Accounts in Texas

The court set out the requirements for joint accounts with right of survivorship.

Ownership of funds held in a multiple party account after the death of a party is determined by statute. In essence, the requirements for the creation of a right of survivorship to a joint account are: 1) a written agreement, 2) signed by the decedent, 3) which specifies that his interest “survives” to the other party.

Here, the signature card constitutes a written agreement and it was signed by the decedent…Thus, the first two requirements for creation of a right of survivorship were met.

(T)he signature card is the only evidence presented in support of the existence of a right of survivorship. Although the card includes a notice provision warning that the type of account chosen may affect how property passes upon the death of an account holder, the notice is incomplete.

The signature card indicates an attempt to create a right of survivorship. However, no document was produced in evidence stating that the ownership interest of a deceased joint owner will belong to the surviving parties upon his death. Without such explanatory language, the agreement, whether in the form of a signature card or a different format, fails to confer a right of survivorship upon the surviving party.

Hare did not meet his burden to prove that the joint account holders created a right of survivorship in compliance with the Texas Estates Code.


Based on the facts of the case and applying Texas law, the son did not meet his burden to show that the account was a joint account with right of survivorship. Because the burden was on him and he failed to meet that burden, he lost. The money from the account went to probate. There is no discussion of a will but if the decedent had a will, the money would be distributed according to the will.  If there was no will, then it would be distributed according to the laws regarding Texas intestate succession.


The things to take away from this case are that the burden of proof is on the person claiming that the account was a joint account with right of survivorship and that Texas has strict rules involving joint accounts.

The Texas statutes include a form that financial institutions can use but most of them continue to use their own forms which may or may not be sufficient.


There are new cases all the time that clarify or change the law on inheritance disputes. Keep up-to-date by subscribing to our blog.



Recent Posts

The slayer rule doesn’t always apply

Texas Slayer Rule Recent UK case on the Slayer Rule The Texas Slayer Rule is different from other state's and countries' rule but has procedures to accomplish the same end result. See this discussion. The Texas Slayer Rule is a rule that court's use to prevent a...

A Gift of “Personal Property” Means all but Real Estate

A will left some specific items to individuals, left "all household and personal property" to Vargas then left a residuary clause. The estate consisted of about $290,00 in bank accounts, stocks, cars and household furnishings. Vargas contended that she received...

Podcast – revoking a will in Texas

Podcast added! The topic is "Revoking a will in Texas" Whether a will has been revoked or not is an issue that comes up in will contest. A recent Texas case showed some of the problems that can arise when one party claims that the will has not been revoked and the...

The Author

Robert Ray

Robert Ray handles inheritance disputes of all kinds. He takes cases throughout Texas.
© Copyright 2024 | All Rights Reserved.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This