Where a Bank Account is in joint names and one of the account holders dies, the question often arises as to whether the survivor is entitled to the proceeds of the bank account.
Where a bank account is in joint names and both parties provided equally the funds to the account and where both were entitled to withdraw without limit from the account then the account passes by survivorship to the survivor. The account is deemed to pass outside the Estate.
However where the account is in joint names and the funds or the majority of the funds contributed thereto came from the deceased joint owner then there is a presumption of a resulting trust in favour of the Estate of the Deceased unless same may be rebutted. The survivor can rebut this presumption by providing proof of a clear intention to the contrary that the beneficial owner intended the survivor to benefit. The considerations to take into account in this situation are the intentions of the donor at the time the account was opened, the control or power the donor has over the asset and the contributions of the parties.
The case of LYNCH –V- BURKE AND ALLIED IRISH BANKS, p.l.c. changed the law in dealing with such accounts. This case involved the deceased, Frances McFadden and her niece Mary Lynch. All funds were provided by the aunt and she controlled the account during her lifetime. The words “payable to Frances Mc Fadden only or the survivor” was endorsed on the passbook. The Supreme Court held that the niece was entitled to the proceeds of the account as the clear intention of the deceased was to benefit her niece. Therefore the presumption of a resulting trust in favour of the Estate was rebutted.
One exception to the presumption of a resulting trust is the presumption of advancement. The presumption of advancement applies in the case of a husband to a wife and a father to a child or a widow to her child. To rebut the presumption of advancement sufficient evidence must be brought by the person challenging it.
It is best practice when a joint account is disclosed during the course of the administration of an Estate, the solicitor is obliged to check all the circumstances regarding the account to establish whether same passes by survivorship or whether same forms part of the deceased estate. It is important to note that personal representatives have a duty of full disclosure of all assets and where assets are in the joint names of the deceased and some other person, a duty to make fully enquiry as to the intention of the deceased with regard to assets held in joint names. If there is no clear intention of the deceased to make a gift to the survivor then the presumption of a resulting trust will apply. The onus of rebutting the presumption of a resulting trust rests with the surviving joint account holder.
If you require further information about or assistance with Joint Accounts or any other matters in the areas of Wills, Trusts, Tax Planning, Probate or Administration of Estates please contact David, Ruth, Rory, Anne or Siobhán.