Estate Law Blog

Are joint bank accounts and joint brokerage accounts really the same?

Joint bank accounts and joint investment accounts are the source of so many of the estate disputes I see in my practice. While joint bank accounts and joint brokerage accounts may seem like more or less the same thing – particularly as banks offer more and more accounts that would be traditionally considered investment vehicles – in distribution on death, joint bank accounts and joint brokerage accounts are governed by different statutes in New Jersey.

When two people own a bank account, the rights of the owners are governed by a statute called The Multiple-Party Deposit Account Act (N.J.S.A. 17:16 I-1 et seq.). This law lays out the owners’ rights while both are alive, and more importantly for my practice, the effect of the death of one of the owners.

Securities and brokerage accounts can also be jointly named, but are governed by another statute in New Jersey, the Transfer-on-Death Security Registration Act (N.J.S.A. 3B:30-1 et seq.). I am only aware of one New Jersey case specifically addressing whether the Multiple-Party Deposit Account Act applies to brokerage accounts (IMO Estate of Suraci), but it seems to me that the existence of a separate statute specifically addressed to brokerage accounts suggests it is not.

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