When preparing estate plans, it is imperative to determine how accounts are titled, because accounts that are jointly held will pass to the surviving account owner, and accounts that have a transfer-on-death designation will pass to the designated beneficiary, regardless of what the will says.
White & Case partner John Olivieri advised a woman whose mother had a will leaving all of her assets to her two daughters in equal shares. However, the woman also had a bank account with only one daughter (John's client) listed as the co-owner. As a result, 100% of the account went to John’s client, and everything else went to the two daughters in equal shares. The other daughter was furious. Commenting on the precarious nature of the case, he suggested his client share the inheritance to avoid further discord.
"I told her I could get her the money, but I could not get her sister to like her for taking it," said Olivieri. Despite his advice, his client kept the money.