INHERITANCE AND JOINT BANK ACCOUNTS

 

Written by Anastasia Miliou, Attorney at the Supreme Courts of Greece

The inheritance Laws that are applicable in Greece are exclusively related with assets that are located in Greece. The assets can be moveable or immovable, or an undivided (ab indivisio) share over them.

The inheritance includes money (cash), jewelry, works of art and bank accounts.

Regarding the bank accounts the inheritance includes only personal bank accounts and not joint bank accounts.

The above can be found in the article  25 of law 2961/2001 regarding tax matters in combination with the article 1 and 2 of law 5638/1932 that refers to bank accounts. Article 2 says that the joint bank account in which there is the condition that after the death of anyone of the cosigners the deposit and the bank account automatically belong to the rest of the cosigners until the last of them dies.

In joint bank accounts ie. bank deposits where there are two or more cosigners there is a particular relationship between these two or more persons and the bank.

In joint bank accounts all cosigners automatically become privy to money deposited in the account. Regardless whether the money is deposited by one of the account owners (in part or in total) hence all the parties automatically have rights to the money in the account. (article 1 of law 5638/1932)

This means that with a deposit into a joint account, the co-signers of the account become owners of the money in the account regardless of the reason of the deposit. Withdrawal by anyone named on the account is not theft nor can it be considered a crime.

The depositor has the right to take legal action against the person who withdrew anything from half to the full amount except if there is another portion or percentage claim decided on between themselves. However this is a matter of their internal relationships and it doesn’t affect the bank or third parties.

In case of death, the amount in the joint account cannot be inherited. Money from a joint account cannot be included in a will and testimony unless the last owner is dead. (article 2 of law5638/1932 and article 25 of law 2961/2001 ).

The surviving member of the joint account continues to be the only one who can have access. If the person who owns the joint account is just one, then that person is the only one who can withdraw the full amount within the account even if, in actual fact, it does not morally belong to him. In such a case, the heir cannot turn against the bank to seek an inheritance share from a joint account as the co-signer is the only one who can have access. The living heirs of the deceased can seek the portion of the deposit of the deceased based on the internal relations with the co-signer.

For example there is a joint bank account with three parties, a husband, a wife and a third person who is not relative. All of them have equal rights to that money regardless of who deposits the money. After the death of the husband, the joint bank account remains active between the wife and the third person. The children of the couple can’t be heirs of this bank account and have no access to it. After the death of the mother, this bank account will still belong to the third party and the children of the couple won’t have still access to it.

When the third and last party of this joint account dies then, his/her heirs will get the money.

In that case the heirs of the couple can seek the money from the third person with a legal action, based on the internal relations of their parents with the third person. Practically they have to prove that all or part of the money belonged to their parents (income). However it must be clarified that this legal action is not based on inheritance laws.

Anastasia C. Miliou is an Attorney at Law at the  Supreme Courts with experience in international law and a large clientele in both Greece and abroad. Her telephone number is 6945028153. If you would like questions answered as part of her articles in English online, you can e-mail her at natmil@otenet.gr or visit www.legalaction.gr

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