By James Harotunian
A case from the state of Maryland establishes that a "co-owner of a joint account can be guilty of theft for stealing from that account."
Here are the quick facts: A father asked his daughter to help him with his finances. Rather than signing a Durable Power of Attorney, he added his daughter to his bank account as a joint owner. Later, the daughter withdrew money for her own use.
The daughter was charged with theft, but argued she could not be charged with theft for withdrawing money from a joint account. Heck, both parties owned the account equally.
The father testified that he added her to the account only so that she withdraw money for him. The daughter was found guilty and appealed. The Maryland Appeals Court agreed with the lower court. The court held the daughter could be guilty of theft for stealing from a joint account.
The court stated, "titling an account as 'joint owners' presumptively creates an ownership interest in both parties, but that presumption can be rebutted by evidence of a contrary intent of the original owner of the account."
Namely, the intent of the parties can overcome the rights given through joint ownership.
Attorney James Haroutunian practices real-estate law, estate planning and probate at 630 Boston Road, Billerica. He gladly invites questions at email@example.com or by phone at 978-671-0711. His website blog is found at