Multiple-Party Accounts

Trust Account

Stogner v. Richeson, 52 S.W.3d 903 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2001, pet. denied).


Depositor opened a certificate of deposit entitled “in trust for Beneficiary.” However, Depositor did not check or initial the trust account language on the form nor name a beneficiary in the provided box. Instead, Depositor checked the box marked “other” and typed in the word “trust.” After Depositor died, Executor claimed that the CD was part of Depositor’s probate estate. The trial court believed that the signature card was ambiguous as to the type of account and submitted the issue to the jury. The jury determined that the CD was a trust account. Accordingly, the account passed to Beneficiary under Prob. Code § 439(c). Executor appealed claiming that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict.

The appellate court affirmed. The court studied the definition of trust account in Prob. Code § 436(14) and determined that Depositor created a trust account, albeit sloppily. It is not necessary to check the designated boxes provided on the account form as long as nature of the account is established by the form of the account and the deposit agreement. The Probate Code does not require any specific mechanism to establish a trust account.

Moral: The attorney should personally inspect all signature cards to make certain they are unambiguous and create precisely the type of account the client intends.