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Joint checking account

My brother has been appointed personal representative of my Mother's estate. Prior to her death she had a joint checking account with him that allowed him to pay her bills such as heat, electricity, real estate taxes and health care. He has told us that he had to use some of his personal income to cover the bills. Is he now allowed to bill the estate for my mother's personal expenses that he might have paid? There is no way of us, to prove or disprove his claim as the account was a joint checking account and after my Mother's death it is now only under his name.

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Submitted Wed, 02/15/2017 - 09:33

When property is jointly held at death, such as joint checking accounts, ownership of the account is automatically transferred to the other owner. This property is not part of the Estate and will not be subject to the Probate Process and will automatically belong to your brother. Unless you can prove that this arrangement was just for convenience and that he didn't actually own anything in the account, he is free to do with all the money in that account what he wishes. In addition to the money in the account, your brother can also make a claim against the estate for any bills that he paid on your mother's behalf while she was still alive. As long as he is the PR he has the authority to approve those payments. If he is using the joint money to pay those bills, he is actually not taking anything from the Estate that could be passed as inheritance and is still spending his own money.

You haven't given any information on where your mother's estate sits procedurally. Was your brother appointed the PR by a court? Was a probate case filed? If you are a beneficiary of a probate estate, you have the rights to request an inventory and accounts from your brother to show what assets there were and where money went. You can challenge those accounts and your brother's status as PR if things don't add up.

I would be happy to discuss the process more with you and go over options at your convenience. Feel free to call the office at 617-859-8966 or e-mail me at

Atty. David Owens
Grolman LLP

Submitted Wed, 02/15/2017 - 09:39

If he paid for items he is entitled to reimbursement. He is a creditor of the estate so he will need to document the expenses and payments. You can ask him for the verifications. Beneficiaries of the estate can question the payments when he files his accounts at the end of the administration.

Carol Cioe Klyman
Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin, P.C.

1441 Main Street, Ste. 1100

Springfield, Massachusetts 01103

413-417-2670 (direct)

413-737-1131 (main)

413-736-0375 (fax)

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