Does the survivor of two holding a joint stock account automatically inherit the account?

UPDATED: May 29, 2009

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Does the survivor of two holding a joint stock account automatically inherit the account?

My father and I had a joint stock account. My father passed away. I transferred the account to my name only. My brother claims he should inherit half of the account (or at least half of my father’s half) because the will said that all his property should be equally divided between me and my brother. By the way, I am the executor.

Asked on May 29, 2009 under Estate Planning, Vermont


B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 13 years ago | Contributor

That depends on the facts.  There are also some state-to-state variations in the law, and I'm not a Vermont lawyer. So you'll need to give someone in your area the entire situation, for reliable advice.  Making a mistake about this could prove personally expensive to you.  One place to find an attorney is our website,

In most states, courts look at the source of the funds in the account, and the purpose for the joint account.  If it was truly a shared investment, if a meaningful part of the account's money was from you, then the account might properly be all yours now, outside the will and not included in the equal division.  The other extreme is if all the money was your father's, and your name was on the account just for his convenience, then the money belongs in the estate.  This isn't necesssarily an either-or, sometimes it isn't entirely clear what the situation was.  Once again, this is not the sort of question where it is wise to rely on your own opinion of what the law might be!

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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