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Price v. Saffield

DECEMBER 26, 1963.




Appeal from the Probate Court of Rock Island County; the Hon. FOREST DIZOTELL, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.


The administrators of the Estate of Nettie Vollmer brought a citation to discover assets of the decedent. The citation was directed principally to Elaine Saffield. After extensive hearings the Probate Court of Rock Island County entered an order which in effect denied the relief sought in the citation. From this order the administrators have appealed to this court.

Nettie Vollmer resided in the home of the parents of Elaine Saffield when Mrs. Saffield was born. Miss Vollmer never married and during her lifetime she developed a close relationship with Mrs. Saffield which continued until the time of Miss Vollmer's death in October 1960. In 1934 Miss Vollmer created joint tenancies with Elaine Saffield in three savings accounts. Both Miss Vollmer and Mrs. Saffield signed signature cards for each account which provided:

"We agree and declare that all funds now, or hereafter, deposited in this account are, and shall be our joint property and owned by us as joint tenants with rights of survivorship and not as tenants in common; and upon the death of either of us any balance in said account shall become the absolute property of the survivor. It is specially agreed that withdrawals of funds by the survivors shall be binding upon us and upon our heirs, next of kin, legatees, assigns and personal representatives.

Payment to or on check of the survivor shall be subject to the laws relating to the inheritance and succession taxes and all rules and regulations made pursuant thereto."

All funds in the accounts were contributed solely by Miss Vollmer. In the twilight of Miss Vollmer's life, Mrs. Saffield made withdrawals from the accounts to provide care for Miss Vollmer. She also deposited Miss Vollmer's checks and had custody of the pass books. In the summer of 1960 Miss Vollmer was taken to a nursing home and ultimately to the East Alton State Hospital where she passed away at age eighty-nine.

In August of 1960 and prior to the death of Miss Vollmer, Mrs. Saffield withdrew approximately $20,000 from the joint accounts (substantially all of the funds) and refused to account to the administrators after the death of Miss Vollmer. However she paid all of the expenses of the funeral of Miss Vollmer.

The evidence introduced at the hearing on the citation dealt mainly with the nature of the relationship of Miss Vollmer and Mrs. Saffield and by relatives of Miss Vollmer. There was testimony that Miss Vollmer stated on numerous occasions that she wanted Elaine to have all her property at her death and other witnesses testified that Miss Vollmer and Elaine Saffield were as mother and daughter or aunt and niece.

It was also shown that it was the practice of the financial institutions where the joint accounts were established to explain carefully the significance of establishing a joint account as compared with other types of accounts.

Miss Vollmer's closest relatives were nieces and nephews and they visited her infrequently. She was said to have stated that they visited her so infrequently "they might as well not exist."

In its order the court as a part thereof found: "That there was a preponderance of evidence of a donative intent on the part of the deceased, Nettie Vollmer, to make a gift inter vivos to Elaine Saffield of the contents of said joint bank (sic) accounts; that there was a valid delivery of the subject of said gift to Elaine Saffield; and that said joint accounts created a joint tenancy in the bank account with the right of survivorship pursuant to Chapter 76 of the Illinois Revised Statutes."

The court then ordered, "That the funds in said joint savings accounts, and any withdrawals therefrom by Elaine Saffield, are the sole and exclusive property of said Elaine Saffield, the surviving joint tenant."

Section 2(a) of the Statute on joint rights and obligations (Ill Rev Stats, c 76, § 2(a), 1961) provides:

"When a deposit in any bank or trust company transacting business in this state has been made or shall hereafter be made in the names of two or more persons payable to them when the account is opened or thereafter, such deposit or any part thereof or any interest or dividend thereon may be paid to any of said persons whether the other or others be living or not, and when an agreement permitting such payment is signed by all said persons at the time the account is opened or thereafter the receipt or ...

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