Joint Ownership of a Certificate of Deposit in Case of Death

You have worked hard to save assets and now must consider what happens when you die. If your estate does not have a trust with all assets held in the living trust, then you must consider how joint assets are titled to ensure the proper dissemination of funds after you die. A bank has more than one way to jointly title a certificate of deposit.


With Rights of Survivorship

A joint CD titled "with rights of survivorship" gives both parties equal access to 100 percent of the funds held in the CD. This means that either party can change, withdraw or alter the CD at any time. Upon the death of one joint owner, the other owner has all rights to the assets, thus "rights of survivorship." This can mean confusion in closing some estates. While it isn't a problem if a wife takes the asset, if the father has three children and a will distributing all assets to all three equally, but only one child is listed as a joint owner with rights of survivorship, she becomes the rightful owner of the CD. This can become a probate nightmare, with the other two children challenging her right and a judge making the determination, most likely in favor of the one listed as a joint owner.


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Tenants in Common

A joint CD with "tenants in common" means each party on the joint account has a percentage ownership in the CD. Tenants in common is frequently used in business accounts, where partners all own different percentages of assets. All joint owners' funds are pooled into one account for mutual benefit. When one of the joint owners die, only his percentage is passed to his rightful beneficiaries. The rest of the CD remains under the ownership of the other joint holders. The bank requires liquidation of the CD upon the death of one owner, with the remaining joint owners taking their portions to reinvest and the heirs of the deceased owner taking estate distributions.


Tenants by the Entirety

A joint account listed as "tenants by the entirety" is similar to the joint with rights of survivorship in that the surviving party is granted full rights to the CD upon the death of the joint owner. The difference with this joint account occurs while joint owners are still alive. Joint parties must mutually agree to the deposit, withdrawal or change of the CD account before action is taken. Upon death, the surviving owner receives the asset unconditionally.



Joint accounts are often held among family members, whether a husband and wife or a parent and child. Among ownership reasons, many joint accounts are created for the convenience of financial assistance. For example, a child might hold a joint title on the account if he is helping his elderly mother with paying bills. However, joint owners must consider the liabilities of joint accounts. Joint accounts with rights of survivorship or tenants by the entirety make the entire asset susceptible to lawsuit and creditor claims. This means if mom owns all the money, but Joe is on the account under either of these two titles and gets sued, his mother can lose her assets.