Having money in an account held in two or more names does not mean that the account is held jointly by all those named and that entitlement to the total balance automatically passes to the last survivor.

A recent case dealt with a bank account that was held in two names. A mother, aged 78, opened the account and the funds were held in her name and in the name of one of her sons. She paid in all the money.

The woman died shortly thereafter and her executors called on her son to account to his late mother’s estate for the sums he had withdrawn from the account and the balance on the account when she died.

He argued that he had inherited the balance by survivorship and was entitled to retain the sums he had withdrawn.

The court ruled that the balance in the account when she died was an estate asset. The son was entitled to retain any withdrawals he had made under her authority, but any other withdrawals had to be refunded to the estate.