Business Bank Account - Tenants in Common or Joint Tenants?

I would appreciate it if someone could assist with the default position of a business bank account held by the partners of a business. I believe that the account is held as joint tenants unless the partners specify when opening the account that it is to be held as tenants in common and the share of each partner, or the joint tenancy is subsequently severed. Is this correct? I am dealing with an estate where a brother predeceased leaving part of his estate to his sister. Does the brother’s share of the business bank account pass to his surviving business partners in the absence of evidence to the contrary?

Hazel Jones
The Salvation Army

Yes, default position will be that the account is jointly owned by the partners (it will probably be confirmed somewhere in the account t’s & c’s).

However, that doesn’t mean the value will just accrue to the other partners - it will still be part of the partnership and therefore the value will be in the deceased’s partnership interest. I believe the default position is that a general partnership is dissolved on the death of a partner (so an equal share of the business and business assets would accrue to the estate). In practice, there is likely a partnership agreement which will hopefully set out what happens to the brother’s partnership interest.

Andrew Goodman
Osborne Clarke LLP

In the absence of evidence to the contrary the account will be viewed as held as a joint tenants not as tenants in common in which case on death the survivorship rule applies.

In Sillars v IRC [2004] it was said that for a tenancy in common records would need to be kept as to who owned the funds and would have required an understanding by the parties of how deposits and withdrawals were dealt with.

Malcolm Finney

My experience of that is that you have to pin the bank down to what the mandate says. they can be very ambiguous about it, so have to press for precision and then see where you stand. I’d say otherwise that silence is acquiescence to a beneficial joint tenancy regardless of the underlying business of the bank account.

David Martin

See also Bingham v IRC [2013] UKFTT on the relevant principles for bank accounts in joint names.

Aparna Nathan QC
Devereux Chambers

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