Convenience bank accounts may cause probates

Starting January 1, “convenience accounts” will be able to be set up at your bank. These are alternatives to joint bank accounts. This development is good and bad.

It’s good because we have endless problems with joint bank accounts. Many times, clients add a joint tenant, usually a family member — but sometimes a non-family member, to a bank account. Upon the client’s death, the funds in the joint account snap automatically to the surviving joint tenant. Most clients don’t realize that this will happen. They think that their will or trust will control the bank account, but it doesn’t control it at all. Many times (about 50% of the time) the joint tenant keeps the funds because he thought he was owed something or did more for the deceased than the other heirs. I’ve seen some pretty nasty family rumbles over this issue.

The new convenience accounts will allow the additional party to make deposits and withdrawals on the account. Upon the client’s death, the convenience account will NOT snap to the convenience signer, but will be controlled by the deceased’s client’s will or trust.

The bad part of this: If the convenience account is $100,000.00 or more, it will cause a probate estate to be opened.  I think that there will be quite a few probates down the line from this new law. Many clients are “advised” by the bank representative on how to title accounts and we already have POD, TOD, in trust for, living trust and joint accounts. It is hard to clients to digest all of this and I think that clients will assume, wrongly,  that the convenience account avoids probate.

The other bad part: The convenience account can be cleaned out by the convenience signer, much like a joint account. Many clients do not realize that a joint signer on a bank account can help themselves to the entire account at any time. It’s rare, but occasionally the joint tenant (who didn’t furnish any $ to the account)  can make off with all the cash in the account and they don’t have to repay it. The convenience signer can withdraw some or all of the funds from a convenience account, but there would be a strong presumption that the funds were the account owners since and it might be easier to get the funds back than if a joint account were raided.

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