Do you hold money in a joint account with another person(s)? What was your intention in setting up the account in joint names? Has the account been properly set up to reflect your intentions?
It is common for problems to arise in determining who is legally entitled to the monies in a joint account, upon the death of the one of the joint owners. Accordingly, if you open a joint account or add another name(s) to your existing sole account it is most important that you advise the Bank/Credit Union/Post Office as to the exact reason why the account is being placed in joint names.
When one of the joint account holders dies, there is not always an automatic presumption, in law, that the other joint holder becomes automatically entitled to the proceeds of the account. For example, if an account is held in the joint names of a husband and wife, John and Mary, the law states that if John dies there is a presumption that the proceeds of the account will belong to Mary. Mary will therefore be entitled to the monies irrespective of what John may have put in his will. This is also the position where an account is held in the joint names of a parent and a child.
However, if an account is held in the name of John and his niece, Joan, the law states that Joan does not automatically become entitled to the monies in the account upon John’s death. Whether or not she becomes entitled to same will depend on the intention of John when he set up the account. It is for this reason that it is important, when you are creating a joint account, to specify the reason for the account being placed in joint names and to expressly set out if it is your intention for the other joint account holder to become beneficially entitled to the proceeds of the account upon your death.
In particular, it can often happen that as a person gets older he/she adds a name to their account for convenience purposes. This will then enable the other person to have access to the account to help the older person with their affairs. In these circumstances, it is most important to advise the Bank/Credit Union/Post Office that you are creating the joint account for convenience purposes only as it may not be your intention that the proceeds of the account would become the property of the other person, upon your death.