Substantial Evidence Establishes Convenience Account

Elder Law Answers case summary.The Court of Appeals of Florida holds that substantial evidence established that an account was a convenience account even though the decedent did not mark it as a convenience account on the signature card. In Larkins v. Mendez (Fla. Dist. Ct. App., No. 16-1123, May 17, 2023).

The decedent, Grover Larkins, Sr., shared an account with his oldest son, Grover L. Larkins, Jr. Although Grover Larkins, Jr. did not make personal withdrawals from the account while his father was alive, he depleted the account following his father’s passing.

The probate court found that the account was a convenience account, which should be distributed among the decedent’s heirs. It also held him in contempt of court for not returning the funds, adopting an order drafted by opposing counsel.

Grover Larkins, Jr. appealed. He argued that since his father did not indicate that the account was a convenience account on the signature card, it was not a convenience account. But the inquiry as to whether the account is a convenience account goes beyond the signature card.

Competent, substantial evidence supports the probate court’s finding. The decedent’s son Eric Larkins testified that his father told him the account would be split three ways, and his father only added his brother to the account to help pay bills and manage finances. A neighbor echoed this testimony. According to Grover Larkins, Jr., the funds came from his father and supported his father during his father’s life. Only after his father’s death did he withdraw money.

The appellate court affirms the order characterizing the account as a convenience account because the order was based on competent, substantial evidence.

The court of appeals reverses the contempt order. The probate court erred in leaving it to the estate representative to draft the order. This delegation was improper, making it appear that the probate court did not exercise independent judgment.

On appeal, the court affirms the order determining the account is a convenience account but reverses the contempt order for the lower court’s lack of apparent independent judgment.

Read the full opinion.