Property-Joint Bank Accounts-The Donee’s Inter Vivos Interest

The use of joint bank accounts has become widespread throughout the United States in recent years and has been the source of considerable litigation and comment. The predominant importance of this type of account is that it allows funds remaining at the death of a co-depositor to pass to the survivor without the necessity of a will. This aspect of the account, causing it to be known sometimes as a “Poor Man’s Will,” has been the focal point of the attention given to the transaction; and today, after more than half a century of uneven treatment by the courts, all jurisdictions will uphold this survivorship feature. The majority of our courts give effect to the survivorship feature on the ground that the co-depositors had joint interests in the account during their lives. In two leading articles, however, Professor Kepner has urged that the joint account be regarded as a new type of valid testamentary disposition which should be upheld on its own merits, and not under the guise of traditional theories of joint ownership. Kepner states that in actuality our courts do not give both parties valid interests during their lives despite the joint tenancy language employed, and that the donee’s interest is, as in a will, nothing more than an expectancy while the donor is still alive. It appears, however, that the question of the donee’s interests during the lives of the co-depositors is far from settled.