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TwoUnderPar

Assumed Survivorship on Bank Account?

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Father married and divorced 4 times over the course of his life.  Died 3.5 years after his last divorce.  When he died, his bank account still had the name of his 4th wife on it as a joint account, but it was not a POD (pay on death) or "rights of survivorship" account.  Bank provided account balance information to me at the time of death, but no other information pending Probate.  Fast forward 8 months later; all issues complete, independent administrator appointment, discovery of heirs, public notices, court hearing.... all done.  Leave the courthouse and go to the bank and discover all the money had been taken by the 4th wife.  Up until his death, she had not accessed the account for several years.  QUESTION:  I am looking for an attorney in Texas.  It's too early to know who is at fault, the bank, or the 4th wife.  What type of attorney do I need?

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Your father is the one at fault. If her name was on the account as an owner, the money was hers. It doesn't matter how often she accessed it, she had the same right to that account as your father. She could have done the same while he was still alive. If he did not intend for her to continue to have access, he needed to remove her. This should also have been part of the divorce settlement.

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3 hours ago, TwoUnderPar said:

Father married and divorced 4 times over the course of his life.  Died 3.5 years after his last divorce.  When he died, his bank account still had the name of his 4th wife on it as a joint account, but it was not a POD (pay on death) or "rights of survivorship" account.

 

Ok...I assume he was not still married to wife #4 at the time of his death.  Correct?

 

What do you mean when you say it "was not a . . . 'rights of survivorship' account"?  Have you read the account agreement?

 

 

3 hours ago, TwoUnderPar said:

Leave the courthouse and go to the bank and discover all the money had been taken by the 4th wife.

 

Did the bank provide you with any explanation why wife #4 was able to take the $$?

 

 

3 hours ago, TwoUnderPar said:

It's too early to know who is at fault, the bank, or the 4th wife.

 

At fault?

 

You told us it was a joint account and wife #4 was one of the joint owners.  Why do you think she didn't have the right to take the $$?

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Thank you all for the help.  I have been visiting with the Probate attorney and compiling  additional information at a rapid pace.  I live 1,248 miles from the bank and the Probate attorney's office and my brother has been helping.  Father died in 2017.  His divorce from his 4th wife was in early 2014.  The Divorce Decree (we have a copy) clearly states that they will both have their own bank accounts and lists account numbers for each of them, and that they are parting ways both emotionally and financially.  The bank was sent a Certified Letter (from Probate attorney) instructing the bank to freeze the account after he died.  The letter was verified received and signed by the bank branch officer 2 days later.  Texas law also automatically severs survivorship rights upon divorce, unless there is specific and clear documentation stating otherwise.  Wife #4 went into the bank 7 days after the certified letter, apparently showed the bank teller her driver's licence (she still had my father's last name at that time), and the teller let her withdraw almost $200,000 in one lump sum.  The Probate attorney is telling us that Chase is clearly at fault.  The branch manager has been very uncooperative because I think he knows he screwed up, which is why my information collection has been slow/confusing.  Branch manager would not even give us an update on the account balance until 3 days ago when we found out it was $0.  I am going to go after Chase Bank first, because they were negligent.  If that doesn't work, I will go after wife #4 for fraud and theft.  What type of attorney do I need to deal with JPMorgan Chase Bank?  Does the attorney need to be located in Texas to go after a national bank?  

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I'm not familiar with Texas law on this subject, and from reading your posts, it looks like the facts are still developing.

As a result, I have no opinion on the merits of a possible claim that you might bring.

 

23 minutes ago, TwoUnderPar said:

I am going to go after Chase Bank first, because they were negligent.  If that doesn't work, I will go after wife #4 for fraud and theft. 

A lawyer can advise you, but, in general, if you're going to file suit on this matter, you'd most likely sue both the bank and the wife in the same action and let the court process sort out whether either, both, or neither have any liability -- you wouldn't sue them sequentially.

 

 

 

25 minutes ago, TwoUnderPar said:

Does the attorney need to be located in Texas to go after a national bank?  

 

Since the bank branch and the wife were located in Texas, all the relevant events appear to have happened in Texas, and there are issues of Texas law that could be important to the outcome of the case, you'd file suit in Texas.  If you're filing suit in Texas, you'd probably want to use an attorney located in Texas.

 

 

28 minutes ago, TwoUnderPar said:

What type of attorney do I need to deal with JPMorgan Chase Bank?

 

A lawyer who regularly does litigation on behalf of plaintiffs with claims against businesses.

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1 hour ago, TwoUnderPar said:

Texas law also automatically severs survivorship rights upon divorce, unless there is specific and clear documentation stating otherwise.

 

First of all, what law do you think says this?  Second, it's probably  safe to assume that a bank account agreement signed by two joint owners would constitute "specific and clear documentation stating otherwise."

 

That gets us back to the question I asked but which you didn't answer:  Have you read the account agreement?

 

 

1 hour ago, TwoUnderPar said:

What type of attorney do I need to deal with [name of bank]?  Does the attorney need to be located in Texas to go after a national bank?

 

You should seek a lawyer in the area where the bank is located.  Virtually any civil litigator can handle the matter.

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First, you folks are great for listening and helping.  Texas law, Estates Code, Subchapter D.  Effect of Dissolution of Marriage on Certain Multiple-Party Accounts, 123.151.:

(b) If, after a decedent designates a spouse or a relative of a spouse who is not a relative of the decedent as a P.O.D. payee or beneficiary, including alternative P.O.D. payee or beneficiary, on a P.O.D. account or other multiple-party account, the decedent's marriage is dissolved by divorce, annulment, or a declaration that the marriage is void, the designation provision on the account is not effective as to the former spouse or the former spouse's relative unless:

(1) the court decree dissolving the marriage designates the former spouse or the former spouse's relative as the P.O.D. payee or beneficiary (IT DID NOT);

(2) the decedent redesignated the former spouse or the former spouse's relative as the P.O.D. payee or beneficiary after the marriage was dissolved (HE DID NOT);

(3) the former spouse or the former spouse's relative is designated to receive the proceeds or benefits in trust for, on behalf of, or for the benefit of a child or dependent of either the decedent or the former spouse (SHE WAS NOT).

 

The Probate/Estate Attorney said she has conferred with a few other local attorney's and they concur that this was negligence on the part of Chase Bank and that it's "black and white, no gray area".  As a side note, while not a consideration here, not only did the Divorce Decree specifically state there was to be no beneficiary between them, it also stated that wife #4 would pay Father $40,000.00 upon sale of their shared house... which she never did.  At the time, Father was still alive and that was none of our business and we did not intervene in any way.  Obviously, my brother and I are going to intervene with her taking our inheritance now.

 

Actions against the bank will move outside of the expertise of our Probate/Estate attorney and we will be searching for a suitable new attorney to continue the case.

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1 hour ago, pg1067 said:

That gets us back to the question I asked but which you didn't answer:  Have you read the account agreement?

 

Sorry.  The bank branch manager was not cooperative earlier in the week, we were "stunned" to find out the balance was $0, and ultimately left without asking to obtain a copy of that document.  Our mistake, obviously.  We did get a printout showing the dates of all transactions within the past year.

 

However, the Estate/Probate attorney says it's a moot point anyway because (1) Texas state law, and (2) the bank was issued a certified letter instructing them to freeze the account 7 days before the funds were withdrawn.

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22 minutes ago, TwoUnderPar said:

First, you folks are great for listening and helping.  Texas law, Estates Code, Subchapter D.  Effect of Dissolution of Marriage on Certain Multiple-Party Accounts, 123.151.:

(b) If, after a decedent designates a spouse or a relative of a spouse who is not a relative of the decedent as a P.O.D. payee or beneficiary, including alternative P.O.D. payee or beneficiary, on a P.O.D. account or other multiple-party account, the decedent's marriage is dissolved by divorce, annulment, or a declaration that the marriage is void, the designation provision on the account is not effective as to the former spouse or the former spouse's relative unless:....

The problem with that is that a POD beneficiary designation is NOT the same thing as joint ownership. If she was a joint owner of the account she had rights to that account that would not be affected by the provision you cited above. Most banks by default provide in their account agreements that the accounts are owned as joint tenants with a right of survivorship (JTWROS). You stated that there was no survivorship, but you also have said that you have not read the account agreement. So how do you know it was not owned JTWROS? You need to find some other provision of Texas law to deal with the joint ownership issue that is involved here. A POD designation is generally made to someone not already a JTWROS owner of the account as the POD would not be necessary. If the lawyers with whom you speak do not know the difference between POD and JTWROS then you need to keep looking for one who does. 

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I'm learning a lot this week.

 

Next thing on my list is to get a copy of the account agreement/signature card.

 

The Divorce Final Decree specifically refers to the account number that contained the money and provides that the account becomes the "sole and separate property" of Father and that the ex-wife is "fully divested".  If I understand correctly, this was (at least in-part) the legal basis for the certified letter instructing the bank to freeze.  Lots of moving parts here.....

 

Thanks for bringing my attention specifically to the POD/JTWROS issue.  Depending on the account agreement, I think I now understand how this could let Chase off the hook.  The bank would not likely have had any knowledge of the Divorce Decree.  That makes sense.

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3 hours ago, TwoUnderPar said:

The Divorce Final Decree specifically refers to the account number that contained the money and provides that the account becomes the "sole and separate property" of Father and that the ex-wife is "fully divested".  If I understand correctly, this was (at least in-part) the legal basis for the certified letter instructing the bank to freeze.  Lots of moving parts here.....

Thanks for bringing my attention specifically to the POD/JTWROS issue.  Depending on the account agreement, I think I now understand how this could let Chase off the hook.  The bank would not likely have had any knowledge of the Divorce Decree.  That makes sense.

Right. The bank would not have known of the divorce decree unless one of the parties put the bank on notice of it. That would have fallen on your father to do as his ex-wife would have had no incentive to do it. He needed to get to the bank and have her removed as an owner of the account. If he never informed the bank and didn’t get the bank to fix the account there is probably no claim against the bank here.

Still, as between your father and his ex-wife that decree is binding and could form the basis for a claim against her to recover what she took from the account after that decree became final. 

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Thank you for your time!  I'm not trying to become an attorney... but just a few last questions and then I'm going to quit:

 

What is your opinion on the fact the bank was notified by certified return-receipt mail (fully executed and signed) that the account was to be frozen pending probate.  The letter did specifically say that Mrs. XXXX did not have legal rights to the account.  What might be the legal standing of Chase receiving the notice and then still allowing the funds to be withdrawn 7 days later to a non-heir?  Would the bank not have "some" responsibility to follow the direction of a certified probate law attorney?  Was the last 8 months a waste of time?  I can handle the truth ;-)

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4 hours ago, TwoUnderPar said:

Thank you for your time!  I'm not trying to become an attorney... but just a few last questions and then I'm going to quit:

 

What is your opinion on the fact the bank was notified by certified return-receipt mail (fully executed and signed) that the account was to be frozen pending probate.  The letter did specifically say that Mrs. XXXX did not have legal rights to the account.  What might be the legal standing of Chase receiving the notice and then still allowing the funds to be withdrawn 7 days later to a non-heir?  Would the bank not have "some" responsibility to follow the direction of a certified probate law attorney?  Was the last 8 months a waste of time?  I can handle the truth ;-)

 

Attorneys are simply representatives of whomever hires them. Being an attorney who handles probate matters does not give the attorney any special power or authority. Rather, it would matter exactly what the letter said and to whom in the bank the letter was sent. The bank is not going to freeze an account simply because an attorney sends a letter telling the bank to freeze it. After all, if the bank freezes the account without sufficient justification the bank is potentially in breach of contract with the account holder and may be liable for harm that might result if it turns out the freeze was improper. The letter would have to explain on what basis the attorney’s client has for the authority to have the account frozen. Just saying that the ex doesn’t “have legal rights to the account” wouldn’t cut it. The bank’s records show her as the owner of the account. It would therefore need to something that negates what it has in its records before it will act. If the letter explained that the court awarded your father sole ownership of the account in the divorce and included a copy of the divorce decree highlighting the relevant portion of it, that should be sufficient to put the bank on notice of the dispute. So what exactly did the letter say? Did it include a copy of the court order highlighting the part in which the court gave your father that specific account?

 

Even if that was done, where was the letter sent to in the bank? Bear in mind that your basic teller or customer service rep at a bank isn’t going to have the authority to freeze the account. The letter had to get to someone who had that authority, and that person may well need to consult the legal department to ensure that there is a good basis for the freeze before doing it. So routing it the right person and then getting the necessary legal review and then actually getting the freeze input would likely take at least a few days. A week contains at best 5 banking days, and that might not have been time enough for all that to happen and get the freeze in place. It would have been better to have a court order directed to the bank in which the court orders a freeze on the account pending resolution of the dispute. A court order, served on someone in the legal department, would likely have received pretty prompt attention.

 

The point is that that a lot of things had to line up for the bank to act and even then it might not have been realistic to expect that to occur in time to stop the ex from making the withdrawl(s) seven days later. You’d want to review all the facts with the attorney to see how likely it is that the bank might be held liable to return those funds. I think in the end it is more likely to fall on the ex directly rather than the bank, but all the details do matter.

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Since you already stated that this is NOT a POD account, all of the laws you cited only relate to POD accounts and are not applicable in this situation.

 

Truly a fascinating case you have here.  It can not be definitively decided on this message board because you have not been told specifically what type of account it was.  Probate is not the only factor involved here, general business law on what happens with a bank account will also need to be looked at.  Perhaps it would have been helpful if your attorney had cited in his letter to the bank, the specific reason or law that supported his contention that the money should not be distributed (or maybe he didn't want to reveal that).  Any business law attorney should be able to help you if he/she can show you citations of specific cases where he/she has sued banks in the past.

 

Whether she was entitled to receive the money will depend on what type of account it was and here are some options, but it might still work out in your favor:

-------------

http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ES/htm/ES.113.htm

 

ESTATES CODE

TITLE 2. ESTATES OF DECEDENTS; DURABLE POWERS OF ATTORNEY

SUBTITLE C. PASSAGE OF TITLE AND DISTRIBUTION OF DECEDENTS' PROPERTY IN GENERAL

CHAPTER 113. MULTIPLE-PARTY ACCOUNTS

SUBCHAPTER A. GENERAL PROVISIONS


 

Sec. 113.052. FORM. A financial institution may use the following form to establish the type of account selected by a party:

UNIFORM SINGLE-PARTY OR MULTIPLE-PARTY ACCOUNT SELECTION FORM NOTICE: The type of account you select may determine how property passes on your death. Your will may not control the disposition of funds held in some of the following accounts. You may choose to designate one or more convenience signers on an account, even if the account is not a convenience account. A designated convenience signer may make transactions on your behalf during your lifetime, but does not own the account during your lifetime. The designated convenience signer owns the account on your death only if the convenience signer is also designated as a P.O.D. payee or trust account beneficiary.

Select one of the following accounts by placing your initials next to the account selected:

___ (1) SINGLE-PARTY ACCOUNT WITHOUT "P.O.D." (PAYABLE ON DEATH) DESIGNATION. The party to the account owns the account. On the death of the party, ownership of the account passes as a part of the party's estate under the party's will or by intestacy.

Enter the name of the party:

________________________________________________________________

Enter the name(s) of the convenience signer(s), if you want one or more convenience signers on this account:

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

___ (2) SINGLE-PARTY ACCOUNT WITH "P.O.D." (PAYABLE ON DEATH) DESIGNATION. The party to the account owns the account. On the death of the party, ownership of the account passes to the P.O.D. beneficiaries of the account. The account is not a part of the party's estate.

Enter the name of the party:

________________________________________________________________

Enter the name or names of the P.O.D. beneficiaries:

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Enter the name(s) of the convenience signer(s), if you want one or more convenience signers on this account:

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

___ (3) MULTIPLE-PARTY ACCOUNT WITHOUT RIGHT OF SURVIVORSHIP. The parties to the account own the account in proportion to the parties' net contributions to the account. The financial institution may pay any sum in the account to a party at any time. On the death of a party, the party's ownership of the account passes as a part of the party's estate under the party's will or by intestacy.

Enter the names of the parties:

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Enter the name(s) of the convenience signer(s), if you want one or more convenience signers on this account:

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

___ (4) MULTIPLE-PARTY ACCOUNT WITH RIGHT OF SURVIVORSHIP. The parties to the account own the account in proportion to the parties' net contributions to the account. The financial institution may pay any sum in the account to a party at any time. On the death of a party, the party's ownership of the account passes to the surviving parties.

Enter the names of the parties:

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Enter the name(s) of the convenience signer(s), if you want one or more convenience signers on this account:

________________________________________________________________

(6) CONVENIENCE ACCOUNT. The parties to the account own the account. One or more convenience signers to the account may make account transactions for a party. A convenience signer does not own the account. On the death of the last surviving party, ownership of the account passes as a part of the last surviving party's estate under the last surviving party's will or by intestacy. The financial institution may pay funds in the account to a convenience signer before the financial institution receives notice of the death of the last surviving party. The payment to a convenience signer does not affect the parties' ownership of the account.

Enter the names of the parties:

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Enter the name(s) of the convenience signer(s):

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

___ (7) TRUST ACCOUNT. The parties named as trustees to the account own the account in proportion to the parties' net contributions to the account. A trustee may withdraw funds from the account. A beneficiary may not withdraw funds from the account before all trustees are deceased. On the death of the last surviving trustee, the ownership of the account passes to the beneficiary. The trust account is not a part of a trustee's estate and does not pass under the trustee's will or by intestacy, unless the trustee survives all of the beneficiaries and all other trustees.

Enter the name or names of the trustees:

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Enter the name or names of the beneficiaries:

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

Enter the name(s) of the convenience signer(s), if you want one or more convenience signers on this account:

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

ACKNOWLEDGMENT: I acknowledge that I have read each paragraph of this form and have received disclosure of the ownership rights to the accounts listed above. I have placed my initials next to the type of account I want.

_______________________

Signature

*************************************************************************************

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On 1/26/2018 at 4:30 PM, TwoUnderPar said:

Texas law, Estates Code, Subchapter D.  Effect of Dissolution of Marriage on Certain Multiple-Party Accounts, 123.151.:

(b) If, after a decedent designates a spouse or a relative of a spouse who is not a relative of the decedent as a P.O.D. payee or beneficiary, including alternative P.O.D. payee or beneficiary, on a P.O.D. account or other multiple-party account, the decedent's marriage is dissolved by divorce, annulment, or a declaration that the marriage is void, the designation provision on the account is not effective as to the former spouse or the former spouse's relative unless:

(1) the court decree dissolving the marriage designates the former spouse or the former spouse's relative as the P.O.D. payee or beneficiary (IT DID NOT);

(2) the decedent redesignated the former spouse or the former spouse's relative as the P.O.D. payee or beneficiary after the marriage was dissolved (HE DID NOT);

(3) the former spouse or the former spouse's relative is designated to receive the proceeds or benefits in trust for, on behalf of, or for the benefit of a child or dependent of either the decedent or the former spouse (SHE WAS NOT).

 

Ok, but none of that applies to a jointly owned asset, such as a bank account.  It would be different if the account were solely in your father's name and he had designated his ex-wife as beneficiary, but that's not the situation you described.  You told us this was a jointly owned account.

 

 

On 1/26/2018 at 4:30 PM, TwoUnderPar said:

The Probate/Estate Attorney said she has conferred with a few other local attorney's and they concur that this was negligence on the part of [name of bank] and that it's "black and white, no gray area"

 

I generally tell folks to run away from lawyers who proclaim something is "black and white [with] no gray area."

 

 

On 1/26/2018 at 4:30 PM, TwoUnderPar said:

the Divorce Decree specifically . . . stated that wife #4 would pay Father $40,000.00 upon sale of their shared house... which she never did.

 

It's possible that your father's estate may be able to take action to enforce this obligation.

 

 

On 1/26/2018 at 4:45 PM, TwoUnderPar said:

the Estate/Probate attorney says it's a moot point anyway because (1) Texas state law, and (2) the bank was issued a certified letter instructing them to freeze the account 7 days before the funds were withdrawn.

 

Honestly, I question the intelligence of any attorney who interprets section 123.151 to apply to the situation you've described.  As far as the letter you mentioned, I'd need to read it before commenting about its effect.  However, if the letter cited section 123.151 as a basis for the ex-wife not taking the money, then I think the bank properly ignored it.

 

 

On 1/26/2018 at 5:57 PM, TwoUnderPar said:

The Divorce Final Decree specifically refers to the account number that contained the money and provides that the account becomes the "sole and separate property" of Father and that the ex-wife is "fully divested".

 

New information.  However, unless the bank was on notice of this, it was entitled to treat its account as it otherwise would under the terms of the account agreement.

 

 

On 1/26/2018 at 10:42 PM, TwoUnderPar said:

Would the bank not have "some" responsibility to follow the direction of a certified probate law attorney?

 

A letter from an attorney carries no legal weight, except to the extent that the letter put the bank on notice of something.

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3 hours ago, pg1067 said:

New information. 

 

Over the course of the last week, my brother and I are starting to think our Estate/Probate attorney was "less than fully competent".  Probate ended last Tuesday but we are sorting and sifting through all of the paperwork while we wait 10 days for Chase Bank to respond (or not).  We are also continuing to gather new information.

 

As of today, I am amazed that the attorney didn't get a copy of the original Account Agreement/Signature Card.  On the other hand, the bank wouldn't release documents about the account without proof of a legal representative of the Estate which took 8 months to obtain as part of Probate.  It is appearing that the attorney just "assumed" that it was a single owner multiple-party account when in fact the attorney did not know.  (The Divorce Decree specifically mentions 4 accounts, 2 of "his" and 2 of "hers", each with 1 checking account and 1 savings account apiece)  The attorney likely made the assumption since the money was in "his" checking account.   

 

We are still attempting to obtain a copy of the Account Agreement.  Another road trip is being planned.  The nearest Chase Bank branch is over 300 miles away.

 

My apologies for inaccuracies in my first few posts. I didn't know the legal difference between single-owner vs multiple-owner vs joint owners and I was taking at "face value" the descriptions and explanations the probate attorney was giving.  Lesson learned!  Thanks again to everyone for assisting!

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3 hours ago, TwoUnderPar said:

As of today, I am amazed that the attorney didn't get a copy of the original Account Agreement/Signature Card.  On the other hand, the bank wouldn't release documents about the account without proof of a legal representative of the Estate which took 8 months to obtain as part of Probate.

 

How in the world did it take 8 months just to open probate and get the letters testamentary from the court confirming the executor? Did the attorney sit on the matter and not get probate opened timely or what?

3 hours ago, TwoUnderPar said:

It is appearing that the attorney just "assumed" that it was a single owner multiple-party account when in fact the attorney did not know.

If that’s true then that is poor practice by the lawyer. I go by the motto “assume nothing, verify everything.” The moment you assume something you run the risk that your assumption is wrong, and that can be a disaster. I’ve litigated against lawyers who have made assumptions they should not have and have seen the damage that did to their client’s case. The ownership of the accounts, the account agreements, and any pay on death beneficiary designations on the account are all things I verify when I’m handling probate. I don’t assume it nor do I trust that my client’s statement about how the account was held is accurate. Clients get things wrong fairly often either due to lack of knowledge, assuming things they ought not assume, misunderstanding something, faulty memory, or some other reason. As much as possible I want to verify each and every material fact. That is what any good lawyer would do, in my opinion. 

7 hours ago, pg1067 said:

I generally tell folks to run away from lawyers who proclaim something is "black and white [with] no gray area."

I agree. When it comes to negligence claims, very rarely is it the case that the matter is truly “black and white with no grey area.” That is especially true when you do no yet know what the bank’s position is on a claim of negligence. It may come forward with evidence you do not yet know about that could change things significantly. 

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4 hours ago, Tax_Counsel said:

How in the world did it take 8 months just to open probate and get the letters testamentary from the court confirming the executor? Did the attorney sit on the matter and not get probate opened timely or what?

I'm not sure that I understand enough about probate processes to give an educated answer.  We were encouraged to use an Independent Administrator and Dad died without a will, hence no executor(?)..... if that makes any sense.

 

I live over 1200 miles from the County/Bank/attorney where this all took place and my brother lives about 900 miles away.  We tried to keep things moving but it was phone, fax, and email wherever possible and yes, it was slow.  We couldn't walk into the law firm office every day and "push" them from a thousand miles away. 

 

4 hours ago, Tax_Counsel said:

That is especially true when you do no yet know what the bank’s position is on a claim of negligence. It may come forward with evidence you do not yet know about that could change things significantly. 

Absolutely agree and up until a week ago..... these types of thoughts never even entered our minds.  We may very well hire a new law firm in Fort Worth, or at least meet and do a consultation on all of this.  However, we are going to wait a couple weeks in case Chase does respond, one way or the other.  Maybe Chase Bank will mail us a copy of the Account Agreement!  :-)           The woman that took the funds recently bought a new house in Tarrant Co., TX.

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We had a significant development today.  My brother was able to visit directly with the (Texas) Chase Bank branch manager today, by phone:

 

"The account showed that your Dad was sole owner and (ex-wife) was shown as POD.  Any further request

  for information will need to come from your attorney and be directed to our legal department."

 

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2 hours ago, knort4 said:

So, it appears that Chase did make a mistake--so it begs the question of  did they know or did they NOT know she was his ex-wife at the time they made the payout.

Yes.... and I go back and re-read my original post, and it's obvious that I didn't have a clue what I was talking about.  We "don't know what we don't know".  My apologies for that.  It was a sole owner account, and the ex-wife was POD.

 

We never did obtain an actual copy of the Account Agreement, but the wording, description, names, dates, Case/Cause number, Estates Code citations, account number, etc... on the letter originally sent from our attorney, to the bank, was/is all correct.  We have evidence of hand delivery, backed up by Post Office documentation that the Certified Mail-Return Receipt Requested was executed.

 

I'm a layman, but it would appear to me now that it's a matter of; 1) was the letter from our attorney adequate documentation/notification?, and 2) was the notification provided in a reasonable, timely fashion? 

 

Personally, I don't see how the documentation would not have been adequate, although it is just a formal letter, on law firm letterhead, from an attorney.  As far as timely, we discovered that the bank received the hand delivery 7 days before the withdrawal.  The Signed Return Receipt bank signature is dated 5 days prior to the withdrawal. 

 

 

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5 hours ago, TwoUnderPar said:

Personally, I don't see how the documentation would not have been adequate, although it is just a formal letter, on law firm letterhead, from an attorney.  As far as timely, we discovered that the bank received the hand delivery 7 days before the withdrawal.  The Signed Return Receipt bank signature is dated 5 days prior to the withdrawal. 

The attorney may have provided enough information. But as I discussed earlier, the bank would have had no more than 5 banking days to get a hold on the account in place, and that may not be enough time. Moreover, the bank can point to the father’s and the estate’s delay in notifying the bank that he was divorced and the POD was no longer effective as contributory negligence. Had your father done that while he was alive, after all, this never would have happened. Or the estate had gotten in place timely and acted to notify the bank earlier this would not have a happened. So even if a jury says the bank was negligent by not acting in the 5 bank days it had (which is by no means a sure thing) the bank might still win on contributory negligence. 

The ex-wife, on the other, had no right to the money and it should be more straightforward to get a judgment against her for its return. You’d likely sue both at the same time, but I think getting a judgment against the bank under these facts is kind of a long shot. 

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15 hours ago, Tax_Counsel said:

Moreover, the bank can point to the father’s and the estate’s delay in notifying the bank that he was divorced and the POD was no longer effective as contributory negligence. Had your father done that while he was alive, after all, this never would have happened.

 

Agreed.  We tried to some degree.  He was almost 84 years old when he divorced.  Family tried to get him to get his affairs in order, but we did not go so far as to use the legal system to attempt to find him incompetent.  We probably could have.  He kept saying, "I'm going to live to be 100!"

 

Well yeah......except he only made it to 87.                                            Thanks for your insight, Tax_Counsel.

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