What Is the Difference Between a Joint Account and a Convenience Account in Florida?
Normally, when you have a joint bank account with another person, you are both the legal owners of the account. Either of you can make deposits to, or withdrawals from, the account. And if either of you dies, the account automatically passes to the survivor outside of the probate process.
But there are also what Florida law considers “convenience accounts.” Say you have an elderly parent who lives alone. They wish to add you to their bank account so you can help them pay their bills and have access to funds after they die. At the same time, their intent is that the account should still pass as a solely owned asset under their will. In this context, adding your name to the account as a signatory is simply a “convenience” for them.
Section 655.80 of the Florida Statutes expressly permits convenience accounts. Section 755.79 further provides that while there is a legal “presumption” that an account with two or more names on the account is a joint account, a person with an interested in a deceased account owner’s estate may overcome that presumption through “clear and convincing evidence” that the intent was to create a convenience account.
Florida Court Orders Son to Repay Over $300,000 to Late Father’s Estate
A 2023 decision from the Florida Third District Court of Appeal, Larkins v. Mendez, provides a practical illustration of how these laws work. This case involved a dispute between two brothers, Grover and Eric, over their deceased father’s bank account. The father died without a will in 2016. He had a joint checking account with his wife. After she died, the father decided to add Grover, who lived nearby, to the account.
After the father’s death, Eric argued before the probate court that his father always meant to designate the bank account a “convenience account,” even though that was not stated on the bank signature card. The probate court appointed an outside attorney to serve as personal representative of the estate. The court then held a trial to determine the lawful ownership of the disputed bank account. Based on testimony from witnesses regarding conversations they had with the father, the judge concluded that his intent was to create a convenience account. The court therefore ordered Grover to repay the money he had taken from the account to the personal representative.
The only problem was that Grover no longer had the money–more than $300,000. The judge then held Grover in civil contempt. On appeal, the Third District said the trial court overstepped its bounds with the contempt citation, particularly since the judge never made any specific findings to support such a ruling. But the Third District also upheld the trial court’s finding that “clear and convincing evidence” supported classifying the bank account as a convenience account, notwithstanding the bank signature card showing it was a joint account.
Contact Florida Estate Litigation Attorney Mark R. Manceri Today
If you are involved in a legal dispute involving probate assets, or possible probate assets, it is important to work with an experienced Pompano Beach estate and trust litigation lawyer who can advise you of your rights. Contact the offices of Mark R. Manceri today to schedule a consultation.