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OHIO JOINT AND SURVIVORSHIP ACCOUNTS

Gino Zavarella

Attorney and Counselor at Law

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Ohio Joint and Survivorship AccountsUnder Wright v. Bloom

Questions. In Wright v. Bloom, 59 Ohio St. 3d 596, the Ohio Supreme Court settled a question which had been controversial as among the Courts of Appeals: When a person establishes a joint and survivorship bank account and then dies, does the remaining balance belong to the decedent's estate or to the survivor named on the account? The questions asked by advocates on either side: Was the account a gift to the survivor? What was the depositor's intent? Was the gift completed? Was the account a Joint Tenancy?

Facts. The facts of Wright v. Bloom is summarized as follows: Decedent had multiple bank accounts. On three accounts he established joint accounts naming his brother as joint holder. Two accounts were Joint and Survivorship accounts and the third was to be governed by bank rules. When Decedent died his brother took the money in the accounts in which he was named. Further, Decedent made a will giving specified amounts to three other people separately but there were insufficient funds in the estate to pay the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries filed a declaratory judgment action for parent from the three accounts which named Decedent's brother. The Court ruled that the two accounts established as joint and Survivorship accounts gave Decedent's brother a right to the same. For the third account, which did not specifically state that it was a survivorship account, the Court remanded the question to the Probate Court for determinations of fact.

Ruling. The Court's ruling was that for uniformity, the right of the survivor of a joint and Survivorship account to keep the balance remaining in it when the creator of the account dies cannot be defeated by extrinsic evidence that the Decedent did not intend to create a present interest in the account during Decedent's lifetime. And by opening an account as a joint and Survivorship account the depositor is conclusively presumed to have intended his named survivor as entitled to the remaining balance. The exception would be in cases of fraud, duress, undue influence or lack of capacity by the creator.

The Supreme Court also held that when an joint account is opened without a survivorship provision it is conclusive evidence that the depositor did not intend to give a survivorship interest to the surviving party to the portion of the account funds contributed by that depositor. The funds contributed by Decedent would belong to his estate.

The Court's opinion took note of the controversies surrounding the Joint and Survivorship accounts, especially as many such accounts were opened by people wishing to bestow such rights and by those who did not. The determination of a conclusive intent ends the controversies in this regard and causes those wising to open such an account for convenience only to use methods other than a joint and Survivorship account.

Further Questions. Some further questions on this ruling and subject:

Q: Does Wright v. Bloom apply to all accounts or is there an exception for accounts established, filed or decided before the Court's ruling?

A: No exceptions; Wright v. Bloom applied to all Joint and Survivorship accounts.

Q: What if a will mentions the joint and survivorship account was established for convenience but that the balance should be included in the estate (notwithstanding the purpose of the joint and Survivorship account)?

A: Under the Court's ruling the beneficiary named on the account is entitled to the funds.

Q: Will evidence contradicting the intent of the account be permitted if it is determined that Decedent had been determined incompetent, had Alzheimer's disease or some other similar debilitation prior to opening the account?

A: In such a case the evidence would be permitted.

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