Brief Fact Summary. Frank A. Whitehead created a joint bank account with Cora Goddard and later changed the name on the account to plaintiff, Enola Stevens Franklin. Both women provided personal care for Whitehead while he was losing his eyesight. At his death, the circuit court awarded Goddard the funds in the bank account as the joint survivor.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A joint tenancy account presumptively creates a gift unless the party claiming adversely proves by clear and convincing evidence that a gift was not intended.
Issue. Whether there is clear and convincing evidence that a gift was not intended when a joint tenancy account is created?
Held. Yes. The decedent did not intent to make a gift through the joint account. There must be clear and convincing evidence that a gift was intended based upon the events relating back to the time of the creation of the joint tenancy and events occurring after the creation of the joint tenancy. The deceased intended to keep the account as his own because he made repeated attempts to change the name on the account and put Goddard’s name and later Franklin’s name on the account in the event that he could not get his money. He was afraid of losing his eyesight. Furthermore, Goddard never exercised any control over the account after it was established.
Discussion. Here there was evidence in the form of written letters that the decedent believed he may go blind soon and consequently appointed others to help him with his financial affairs. The decedent was not making a gift but was rather in such a condition that it behooved him to put another person’s name on his account to carry out his affairs.