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Clare, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 35054
Experience:  I have been a solicitor in High Street Practice since 1985 with a wide general experience.
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I have had a case involving a joint account dispute

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I have had a case involving a joint account dispute dismissed as the judge found in favour of the defendant. I am the executor of my uncle's estate. The dispute arose as the defendant claimed the joint account funds as her own under the survivorship rule. She is not a spouse or civil partner. Her name was added to an existing account and she did not contribute to the funds. By her own admission she claimed the funds only when the bank told her of the survivorship rule. At trial the judge ruled in favour of the defendant because he said that as a claimant the onus was on me to prove the case on the balance of probabilities which he said I had failed to do.
My understanding of the law regarding joint accounts is that if only the original account holder has contributed to the funds then the money forms part of the deceased's estate and the burden of proof is on the joint account holder to prove that the money belongs to them. Can you advise me if I am correct in my understanding and whether the judge has not applied the law correctly to this situation. If so would I have grounds for an appeal?

Thank you for your question

My name is Clare

I shall do my best to help you but I need some further information first

Was any Case Law referred to?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
case law was not referred to however at the case conference the same judge advised both parties that as the deceased contributed all the funds to the account, the burden of proof was on the defendant to prove that the funds were intended for her as she is not a spouse or civil partner. At trial the judge applied the reverse when granting judgment to the defendant. He stated that the onus was on the claimant to prove on the balance of probabilities that the deceased did not intend for the funds to pass to the de defendant. He made his judgment based on the fact that the claimant had failed to convince him that this was the case. I am trying to decide whether to appeal, therefore I need to know which advice was correct in relation to joint accounts. Is the burden of proof on the defendant or the claimant to prove their case?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
have you received my response?

My apologies for the delay

Were you represented or acting as a Litigant in Person?

I ask because this is a complicated issue and there is Case Law on both sides.

However the case that sets out the basic test is

Re Northall (deceased) 2010

reported here

The basis of this is

"1. When one person puts money into joint names there is a presumption of a resulting trust to the provider of those funds. The presumption can be ‘rebutted’ if the circumstances give rise to something called the presumption of advancement, which was not the case here (and which this article does not go into), or, by evidence that the provider intended to transfer the beneficial interest;

2. The burden of proving such an intention is on the person who is alleging it."

The latest case is

Drakeford v Cotton and Stain [2012] EWHC 1414(Ch)

But I am afraid that this is not likely to be of assistance

Please ask if you need further details

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I was not represented. I am aware of the Northall Case Law and based on this and the judges handling of the case I think that I have grounds for an appeal. At the case conferenc
e, the judge advised the defendant that the money belonged to the estate and the burden of proof was on her to prove that the money belonged to her, however at trial he advised me as the claimant that he had ruled against me as I had failed to prove my case on the balance of probabilities. I am trying to establish which statement is correct. Is the burden of proof on the defendant to prove that the money belongs to her or is the onus on the claimant to prove her case at trial. I obviously do not want to bear the cost of an appeal until I am fairly sure of the position and confident that I can succeed. Many thanks.

What was the relationship between the deceased and this person?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
friend and in-law through marriage

In fact it is the case of

Drakeford v Cotton and Stain [2012] EWHC 1414(Ch)

Which has caused the problem

Has your Uncle been alive then the Northall Case would have protected you.

The fact that he has died means that

Drakeford v Cotton and Stain [2012] EWHC 1414(Ch) applies

More specifically here

"The 3rd possibility received much greater analysis and was found to represent the true intention of the widow. The judge observed that this result was not easy to analyse or describe. However, in essence, his view was that a. The legal title was in joint names b. One of the account holders was entitled to draw on the account and the money drawn was their sole property c. The other account holder was not entitled to draw on the account d. On the death of one account holder the accounts belonged absolutely to the survivor, irrespective of who was the survivor. This structure removes the asset from the free estate of the widow and is a trust structure."

I am afraid that I think this is a potential problem

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
thank you.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
if my uncle had been alive the problem would not have arisen. The issue is that my uncle left no instructions with regard to his intention concerning the joint account and did not amend his will. Taking this into account, my question is´´´´´´Is the burden of proof on the defendant to prove ownership of the funds in the joint account?

I appreciate that it would not have arisen - but after his death the burden of prove changed form being that of the defendant to that of the claimant - which is why you lost.

Clare and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
thanks for your help.

You are most welcome