Ore Tenus Presumption – Uniform Multiple-Person Accounts Act

Fletcher, etc. v. Eddins, etc., et al. and Eddins, etc., et al. v. Fletcher, etc., [Ms. SC-2022-0533 and SC-2022-0640, Aug. 18, 2023] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2023). The Court (Cook, J.; Parker, C.J., and Wise, Sellers, and Stewart, JJ., concur) affirms in part and reverses in part the Monroe Circuit Court’s judgment resolving disputes concerning the division of certain assets related to the estate of R.E. Ivey (“R.E.”), deceased.

The Court affirms the determination that R.E.’s widow, Edwyna, was entitled to certain statutory allowances which were totally offset by the value of R.E.’s pickup truck Edwyna had retained. The Court holds “[i]t is well settled that, when a trial court hears ore tenus testimony and makes findings based on disputed facts, its judgment based on those findings will not be reversed unless they are clearly erroneous …. The fact that there was at most conflicting testimony as to the value of the pickup truck does not mean that the circuit court’s finding as to its value was ‘clearly erroneous, without supporting evidence, manifestly unjust, or against the great weight of the evidence.’” Ms. *22.

The Court reverses the circuit court’s judgment determining that R.E.’s children were entitled to relief on their breach-of-trust claims in connection with certain bank accounts naming the children POD beneficiaries. The Court notes Edwyna denied that “she intended for those accounts to constitute individual trusts” … and “all the documentation related to those accounts reveals that they were specifically set up as POD accounts. [The children] do not point this Court to any evidence in the record demonstrating otherwise.” Ms. *25. The Court also reverses as to Edwyna’s conversion of these accounts because as [POD] beneficiaries, the children had “‘no right to sums on deposit during the lifetime of any party.’ § 5-24-11(c).” Ms. *29.

On the children’s cross appeal, the Court affirms the judgment that Edwyna was entitled to the proceeds of the “farm account” withdrawn by Dell after R.E.’s death. The Court holds

... [I]t is undisputed that R.E., Edwyna, and Dell were joint tenants with rights of survivorship with respect to the farm account. It is also undisputed that, before his death, R.E. paid all the net contributions to that account and that, as a result, he was beneficially entitled to all the proceeds in that account during his lifetime.”

The question of who was entitled to those proceeds after R.E.’s death is governed by § 5-24-12. Subsection (a) of that Code section provides: “Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, on death of a party sums on deposit in a multiple-party account belong to the surviving party or parties. If two or more parties survive and one is the surviving spouse of the decedent, the amount to which the decedent, immediately before death, was beneficially entitled under Section 5-24-11 belongs to the surviving spouse….”

Ms. *32.

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