Florida law permits the challenge to a joint account’s ownership where the creation of the ownership, or a change to the ownership, was the result of undue influence or lack of capacity. See, e.g., Cripe v. Atl. First Nat’l Bank of Daytona Beach, 422 So. 2d 820 (Fla. 1982).
There is a presumption that the survivor of a jointly titled bank account is the sole owner of the joint account upon the death of the first owner. Like a will contest, the creation or change of an account’s ownership can be challenged after the first owner’s death. See, e.g. Keuhl v. Hodges Blvd. Presbyterian Church, 180 So. 3d 1074 (Fla. 1st 2015). Keuhl held that a pay-on-death (POD) designation—like a joint account, real estate deed, securities or brokerage account, will contest, or other inter vivos (i.e. a transfer during the decedent’s life) gift—can be challenged for “undue influence, fraud, duress and overreaching.”
Any property that an estate has a claim in may be challenged in a probate court. Laushway v. Onofrio, 670 So. 2d 1135, 1136 (Fla. 5th DCA 1996). This decision is important to litigation regarding joint accounts—including the validity of changes to account ownership or beneficiary designations—because it confirms the jurisdiction of the probate court to handle a challenge to an inter vivos transfer procured by undue influence. Id.
To discuss your dispute over the ownership of a joint bank account or its beneficiary designation(s), please contact the estate and trust litigation attorneys of Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun, LLP at (561) 626-2101 or toll free (800) 226-1484 for a no-obligation free consultation to discuss your case.