Tennessee Supreme Court Clarifies Law Regarding Ownership Of Funds Withdrawn From A Joint Bank Account

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Tennessee Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that, when one spouse unilaterally withdraws money from a married couple’s joint bank account and places the funds in a certificate of deposit, the funds are no longer joint property and belong to the spouse to whom the certificate of deposit was issued.

In April 2012, Calvert Hugh Fletcher and his wife, Nelda Karene Fletcher, deposited funds in a joint checking account designated with a right of survivorship. The joint account card required only one signature to withdraw funds. Later, Mr. Fletcher withdrew $100,000 from the account and deposited the money in a certificate of deposit held only in his name. After he died, a dispute arose between Mrs. Fletcher and Mr. Fletcher’s children from a previous marriage regarding ownership of the certificate of deposit. The Putnam County Probate Court ruled that the funds belonged to the husband’s estate because the funds ceased to be joint property when withdrawn from the joint account. Mrs. Fletcher appealed, and the Court of Appeals ruled the funds belonged to her because the money could be directly traced to the joint account.

After reviewing cases from Tennessee and other states, the Supreme Court held that, once a husband or wife withdraws funds from a joint bank account held as tenants by the entirety, the funds cease to be held by the entirety. The Supreme Court found this approach provides the clarity and finality needed in the current banking environment, noting it would be difficult for a third party receiving funds to know the source of the money and if someone else has an ownership interest in the funds.

In an opinion authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee, the Court held that the certificate of deposit issued to Mr. Fletcher from money withdrawn from the couple’s joint bank account was owned by Mr. Fletcher at his death and, therefore, was not owned by Mrs. Fletcher, but became a part of Mr. Fletcher’s estate and passed under the terms of his will.

To read the unanimous opinion in In Re Estate of Calvert Hugh Fletcher, authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee, visit the Opinions section of TNCourts.gov.



Rembrandt Conservator Works To Restore Historic TVA Mural

An art conservator who can count a  Rembrandt painting  among his many restoration projects is now working to save a mural at Norris Dam. The severely damaged artwork was discovered behind a dated gold-colored shag rug bolted to the powerhouse lobby wall during preparations for the plant’s 80 th  anniversary celebration in 2016. The mural—painted by TVA artist ... (click for more)

Tennessee Supreme Court Affirms Mother's Convictions For 1st-Degreee Murder And Aggravated Child Abuse Of Newborn Twins

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the convictions of Lindsey Lowe for first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse, stemming from the deaths of her newborn twins caused by her smothering the infants shortly after birth.  Prior to trial, Ms. Lowe moved to suppress evidence obtained under a search warrant, based on the fact that one of the three ... (click for more)

Kordarrius Murphy, 22, Shot On Bonny Oaks Drive Late Thursday Night

Kordarrius Murphy, 22, was shot late Thursday night on Bonny Oaks Drive.   The Chattanooga Police Department responded  at approximately  11:36 p.m.   to a report that a person had been shot. Officers were dispatched to a vehicle crash with injuries at 4200 Bonny Oaks Drive. At the same time, a shooting victim arrived at a local hospital in a private ... (click for more)

Chancellor Fleenor Sets Aug. 6 Hearing In Democratic Suit To Keep Robin Smith Off The Ballot; Ms. Smith Was Former Campaign Advisor To Judge

Hamilton County Chancellor Pam McNutt Fleenor has set a hearing for Aug. 6 at 1:30 p.m. on a lawsuit brought by the Tennessee Democratic Party seeking to keep former state GOP Chairman Robin Smith off the ballot. Ms. Smith was a campaign advisor for Ms. McNutt Fleenor when she ran for judge in 2014. Her Rivers Edge Alliance was paid $13,546.86 by the McNutt Fleenor campaign, ... (click for more)

Not My University: Why I’m Not Okay With Mike Pence Coming To Lee University - And Response (6)

As a student of Lee University, who is well-aware of the Lee administration’s more conservative stance in politics, I am upset about Mike Pence visiting the university and being welcomed on our campus. Although I respect that Pence is in a position of authority as our nation’s Vice President, and that he likewise deserves the right to hold his own opinions in regards to the issues ... (click for more)

Employee Who Stole From East Ridge Should Be Prosecuted

Why has the East Ridge employee who was fired for theft not been charged with theft?    City Manager Scott Miller made the statement that the employee had problems and that the stolen items were returned.  What does that have to do with the employee stealing ?   He has had a history of abuse of city resources. Why is he not being prosecuted? ... (click for more)