We constantly preach that how an asset is titled to is the most important factor in determining whether an estate plan will work. Many people do not give sufficient thought to coordinating the way their assets are titled with the way they want those assets to be handled in the event of a disability or after death. A glaring example is the “joint bank account.”
Florida law provides that any deposit or account made in the name of two persons who are husband and wife shall be considered a tenancy by the entireties unless otherwise specified in writing. One must be very careful when opening a bank account to review the bank’s form to make certain that the box checked “tenancy by the entireties” is checked, because if it is not, or if a different box is checked, then this presumption likely will disappear. What is important for married couples to understand is that bank accounts owned as tenancy by the entireties are owned by both spouses. This means that one spouse may not transfer money from such an account without the consent of the other spouse. On the other hand, if the accounts were joint tenancies with the right of survivorship, either spouse could terminate that joint tenancy by transferring the funds to another account or simply by withdrawing the funds altogether.
So, you can see that checking the right (or wrong) box on what appears to be a fairly harmless bank form can make a big difference in the respective rights of a husband and wife to the funds in that account.