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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

We were successful in our trial on joint bank accounts & investments

Update: The case can now be read online here.

Recently I told you readers about a trial I was involved with and some of you asked that I let you know the outcome. I represented several siblings in a family who had a dispute over the assets of their deceased mother. In particular, the first issue was the ownership of a bank account that had been held between the mother and her son, our client, who said that he believed he held the account in trust for all of the siblings.

This is important because the mother's will did not leave her estate to ALL of the children. If the assets were in the estate, they would go to only 3 of the 10 children.

The second issue was the ownership of the mother's investment accounts. The sibling who was receiving the bulk of the estate under the will claimed that the investments were in the estate. We claimed that they were not in the estate but were supposed to go to all of the siblings. There was an issue about who the mother intended to name and whether anyone had interfered with her wishes.

During the trial, the witnesses were three of the siblings, two bankers who had dealt with the mother, and the mother's investment advisor.

We've now had our result. Though we expected it to take months, the judgment came back in less than 2 weeks. We won on all counts, including costs. The bank account is to go to all siblings, and so are the investments.

The judge relied on the presumption of resulting trust, which says that a joint bank account of this type belongs in the mother's estate unless we can show her intentions were otherwise. The judge found that our evidence had been sufficient to rebut the presumption and therefore the account belongs to the joint owner (the son) to divide among all of the siblings.

The judge also found that nobody had influenced or coerced the mother into any of her decisions regarding her investments. She intended her money to go to all of her children.

Now that the decision has been rendered, it becomes public information. It just came out today so it is probably not yet available anywhere, but within a short time you should be able to find it online. It is cited as 2018 NLSC 220 (Thorne Estate).


  1. Lynne
    Most of us don't know the details of this case as you would but my research re joint accounts where there is no written directive from the Will writer indicates it belongs to the Estate.

    I have a similar issue and you would not believe how long it's dragged on with lawyers and Judges. Hard to believe but true. TBC

    Lynne I wish you practiced in my neck of the woods. My Estate Matter would have been resolved MANY years ago.

    The Judge in your case, based on the facts and the law did the right thing. Kudos to the Trial Judge and you. IMO.


    1. In the situation you have researched, the answer is not that the account belongs to the estate. The answer is that there is a presumption that it belongs to the estate, and it is up to the person challenging that presumption to bring evidence that defeats it. It might not be written evidence from the owner of the account, though that would be wonderful.

      I know you're having a miserable time with your case. It sounds like a nightmare.


  2. Congratulations to you and your client.

    It's unfortunate the Testator did not specify her intentions for the accounts within her will, but great that the Judge quickly established the position you presented, to be the correct interpretation.

    1. You're right that it was unfortunate that this had to get all the way to a trial, but an awful lot of existing wills really don't address things like joint accounts and designated beneficiaries. They are made almost as if the wills exist in a legal vacuum. There's bound to be trouble when the older person either doesn't divulge that there are other plans in place, or the lawyer doesn't advise them.

      The clients are relieved that it's over and are well aware of what the last several years have cost their family (and I don't mean money).



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