Bailey & Wyant, PLLC Managing Member Charles Bailey and Associate Adam Strider recently obtained a final ruling in favor of an estate executor and heir on appeal to the Circuit Court of Kanawha County from a probate ruling by the Kanawha County Commission.
The Petitioner, another heir by will and former executrix, appealed the ruling of the Kanawha County Commission, which held that certain bank accounts jointly titled between the Petitioner and the decedent, were probate assets rather than the non-probate property of the Petitioner. The Petitioner argued that the County Commission had erred in their finding, and that accounts which are jointly-titled at the time of death of one account-holder are presumed to be a non-probate gift to the surviving account-holder.
Bailey & Wyant, PLLC successfully argued that an exception to that general rule exists where the survivor had a “confidential or fiduciary relationship” to the decedent, and the joint accounts were relevant to that fiduciary duty. In such cases, there is a presumption of constructive fraud, in which the survivor must prove that the accounts were intended as a gift. The Hon. David M. Pancake, ruling by designation in place of the Hon. James C. Stucky, agreed, holding that the Petitioner's assistance of the decedent with financial matters late in life constituted such a relationship, and that the evidence showed the accounts were jointly titled as a matter of convenience to the decedent rather than a gift to the Petitioner. He affirmed the holding of the County Commission in whole, ruling entirely in our client's favor and dismissing the appeal.
The entire Final Order is of record in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, designated 17-AA-69.