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Owner of Joint CD after Death

My dad and I had three CDs together with our names connected with "or." Both of my parents recently passed away and my brother is disputing the ownership of the CDs. I removed my dad's name from the CDs after he died and my brother's lawyer said that this was fraud. He claims that the CDs should be turned over to my father's estate. Is he correct or am I the sole owner of these accounts?


The laws in your state and the terms of the deposits will be the deciding factors on this question. If the accounts were established under state law or by contract as joint tenancies with the right of survivorship, every state would agree that the accounts would be owned by the survivor (you, in this case) upon the death of one of the owners.

If the accounts were established without rights of survivorship, most state laws would require that part of the ownership would run to your dad's estate, and the rest to you. The split might be 50/50, or based on each owner's contribution to the accounts. If the accounts were actually in your dad's name alone, with you named as a "convenience signer" or "authorized signer" (not usual on CD accounts, and the use of "or" suggests otherwise anyhow), all of the funds would belong to your dad's estate.

It's unfortunate, but sometimes families squabble over money after a loved one dies. Sometimes, family members even try to argue that a deposit contract should be ignored because of allegations that fraud, duress or diminished mental capacity played a part in setting an account up in a particular fashion.

Published on 12/17/07