Often an aging parent will add an adult child to the parent’s account as a joint holder to assist with asset management or bill payment. However, this may lead to an unintended result in California when the parent dies. The child, as surviving account holder, may get all of the account proceeds even if the parent wanted them shared among a group of beneficiaries.
Provisions of the California Probate Code set ground rules for the treatment of joint accounts, but the statutory language is not crystal clear. In Placencia v. Strazicich (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 730, the Court of Appeal clarified that the intent of the person who established the account is paramount such that the surviving account holder’s presumed right of survivorship can be overcome by just about any sort of admissible evidence, as long as it is clear and convincing. The survivor just may have to share the piggy bank.