The Pennsylvania Superior Court is reversed! No surprise. (See our prior posts here and here.) Read the Supreme Court’s decision here.
Common sense prevailed. Joint accounts are rehabilitated. The joint account result is correct and good. However, in this particular case, the appellants missed the boat. This really should have been a case on the appropriateness of the agent under a POA’s actions. Too bad those weren’t the issues on appeal. I wonder if its too late to go back?
Here are some highligts from the opinion:
"There is no statutory provision giving a will primacy over the right of survivorship
presumed by Section 6304(a), nor does anything in the MPAA or the PEF Code support the
Superior Court’s path of interpretation. Indeed, the MPAA clearly evinces a legislative
intent that joint accounts are to be generally governed and interpreted separate and apart
from provisions governing wills."
"We do not hold that provisions of a will, in the appropriate case and in conjunction
with other relevant evidence, are beyond consideration as “clear and convincing evidence”
of intent different from a right to survivorship “at the time [a joint] account is created.”
However, the Superior Court’s conclusion that such clear and convincing evidence exists
simply when a court determines that the provisions of a pre-existing will indicate a
distribution scheme in conflict with one under a co-existing joint account is not supportable
under a plain reading of the MPAA or otherwise."
"We understand Appellee’s disappointment, and we note the orphans’ court and
Superior Court’s apparent discomfort with the master’s conclusion that the proceeds of the
Treasury Direct account, representing the bulk of Decedent’s substantial property,
belonged to Appellant rather than to the estate.