The Joint and Survivor Account in Michigan-Progress Through Confusion
Legal writers have been intrigued for years by the challenge of classifying and identifying the resulting incidents of the joint and survivor bank deposit when an attempt is made to use it as a mode of effectuating a donor depositor’s intention to confer benefits on a donee co-depositor. Much in their discussions is useful to one who is concerned with the concept that has evolved in Michigan, where a 1909 statute states that some co-depositors are presumed to be joint tenants. Michigan judges and practitioners must determine, however, whether comment about national trends is applicable here, for in many respects the starting assumptions with which they have had to work seem different from those applicable elsewhere. The use in the Michigan statute of the joint tenancy concept, together with the state’s traditional resistance to enforcing contracts on behalf of third-party beneficiaries, has directed the dialogue in Michigan along lines of property rather than contract concepts. However, the statute, because it speaks of a present co-tenancy, is an awkward starting point when it is used to effectuate a purpose to make a transfer at death, a purpose that many depositors seek to implement through joint and survivor accounts.