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By: Scott Grossman on April 3rd, 2018

My mother had a trust and also a joint tenancy account with my brother. Can I make him account for the money he took from the joint tenancy account?

Joint Tenancy Account (noun): 

The ownership of an estate or property jointly by two or more parties. The portion of each passing to the other owners on death.

My Mother had a Trust and Also a Joint Tenancy Account with my Brother. Can I Make Him Account for the Money he Took from the Joint Tenancy Account?

The simple answer is maybe.  In California, joint tenancy bank accounts are treated differently from joint tenancies in real estate.  The owners of a joint tenancy bank account own the account in proportion to their contributions.  However, when an account owner takes money out in excess of their contribution it is considered a gift by the other owner.  They don’t have a duty to account unless they have some separate duty.

In the scenario described in the question, the brother has a separate duty as trustee of the mother’s trust.  If he takes trust money and puts it in the joint tenancy account then he has a separate duty to account for those funds.

If you would like to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of joint tenancy accounts, click here. Investopedia mentions that the advantages of a joint tenancy are that you avoid probate and that both parties equally hold the same amount of responsibility and continuity. Continuity means that the property passes to the decedent as soon as the death upon a tenant occurs. Immediately after the death, ownership is transferred to the survivor (Curtis 2018).

The disadvantage of a joint tenancy account is that there are certain drawbacks that occur if relations deteriorate (Curtis 2018). Another disadvantage is that bank accounts may become frozen or that the partner might try to control the asset (Curtis 2018).

If you are wondering how to manage a joint tenancy account or what you can do if the situation depicted above occurs, do not hesitate to contact us. We have years of experience in probate and trust litigation and would love to further assist you. Feel free to use our quick and easy online form to contact us today.