Viera and her late husband Ben died believing they left everything equally to their children because it was written in their last wills. They were wrong.

Viera lived fourteen years after Ben died. Their divorced daughter Lucy moved in with Viera and became Viera’s primary caretaker in the eight years following her stroke. For convenience, Viera added Lucy’s name to her checking and savings accounts at the credit union. Lucy was fair with her mother and the arrangement worked.

When Viera moved into a care center, she sold her house and put the money in her credit union account to take pay her expenses. She died a few weeks later.

After mom’s funeral, her three children talked. Lucy asked for a greater share of mom’s things because she had been the only one caring for mom for many years. An argument began, and words became weapons.

Lucy felt unappreciated. As mom’s primary caretaker, she could not keep a job with regular hours for several years and was broke when she moved out of mom’s home. Her brother and sister had good marriages, secure jobs and large homes. When Lucy complained, her sister called her lazy and undeserving.

Lucy went to the credit union, drew out her mother’s money and closed the account.
When her brother and sister complained, Lucy’s lawyer reminded them that Lucy had inherited all of mom’s money because she was a joint owner of the credit union accounts. The brother and sister took Viera’s will to their lawyer, pointing out their equal inheritances. Viera’s last will did not control the money in her credit union accounts, the lawyer said. After discussing an expensive lawsuit, the brother and sister gave up their fight and refused to speak to Lucy.

Here’s the lesson: When someone dies, money in their joint accounts and property in joint tenancy does not go through their will or trust. On death. money in joint accounts goes to the joint owner(s) of the account and property owned in joint tenancy goes to the joint owner(s) of the property. Money in a solely owned financial account goes to the beneficiary of the account. Insurance money goes to the beneficiary. Be careful with joint accounts and property.

(Note: we do not disclose the identities, stories and confidences of our clients. While stories in this blog may describe real events and real people, we alter names and facts to protect the true identities of the people involved.)