How should my recently deceased mother’s finances be divided amongst all surviving family?

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How should my recently deceased mother’s finances be divided amongst all surviving family?

My mother passed away without a Will and without any real estate. She lived with me and my husband for 3 1/2 years. Therefore, her checking and money market accounts were in a joint account with me as the joint signer. I am currently waiting for all medical bills to be paid for her hospitalization, but would like to know when this is all resolved, how exactly should her finances be distributed amongst her family. Her spouse pre-deceased her, as did her parents. She has 4 living children, with multiple grandchildren one deceased son with two living children, and one grandson and one living sibling. Can you advise me on the appropriate distribution of her financial assets?

Asked on April 7, 2018 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If you only had the right to sign for the accounts (e.g. to write checks on them) they do not belong to you and were estate assets. In that event, if there there are four living children and no will, the money is split evenly among those four.
If these were joint accounts, where you were an account holder (so an owner of the account, not merely someone with check writing authority), then when she passed away, they became your property solely: the money belongs only to you. When one joint account holder dies, the account goes to the surviving joint account holder.
The money would also belong only to you if the accounts were transfer on death ("TOD") or pay on death ("POD") to you.


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