When two names are on a bank account deciding who owns the funds can be troublesome. Generally while both parties have a right to withdraw all the funds, that does not mean that both parties own the money. Because this issue has most frequently come up when a party dies, state legislatures have approved various approaches to clarify how the law should address the uncertainty of ownership at death. In Wagner v. State, 445 Md. 404 (2015), the Maryland Court of Appeals addressed Maryland law on ownership of joint accounts when it affirmed the conviction of a daughter for theft of her father’s funds.
That happened because I had my bank account with my wife’s name on it[,] but[,] since she passed away, I wanted somebody else to be able to get the money if I couldn’t get it myself. So I asked [my daughter] if I could put her name on the account[,] and this is my money in there, but not hers, and she agreed to do that.
According to the police, the daughter had taken $251,645.83 from the account through ATM withdrawals, cash withdrawals, and wire transfers to the daughter’s personal and business checking accounts. According to the daughter all of the withdrawals were authorized and when prosecutors asked if authorized withdrawals included the money she lost at the casinos, she said, possibly.
Maryland Law Joint Ownership of Bank Account
On appeal to Maryland’s highest court, the daughter argued that she could not be guilty of theft because she was an owner on the account. Rejecting the argument, the court explained the changes made to the law: