Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Varela v. Bernachea case brief

Varela v. Bernachea case brief summary
917 So. 2d 295 (2005)

Defendant girlfriend appealed a judgment by the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County (Florida) that declared plaintiff boyfriend the sole owner of an account despite the fact it was held in joint tenancy.


The parties developed a romantic relationship and traveled the world together. The boyfriend paid all of the girlfriend's expenses and showered her with expensive gifts. He also added her as a joint tenant with a right of survivorship to a certain account. The girlfriend received a Visa check card for the account, which she freely used. After the boyfriend had a heart attack, his daughters barred the girlfriend from both his hospital room and his condominium. The girlfriend wrote a $ 280,000 check on the joint account and deposited it in her own name in a newly opened personal account. The boyfriend subsequently sued the girlfriend and the bank to settle the ownership status of their account.


  • The appellate court found that the only evidence in support of the boyfriend's claim that he lacked donative intent was his own dubious testimony, claiming he misapprehended the significance of a joint tenancy, and only intended for the girlfriend to possess "restricted" account access. 
  • However, the boyfriend did not rebut the girlfriend's gift presumption when he openly admitted that he gave the girlfriend access to their joint account via check card.

The judgment was reversed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Suggested Study Aids For Wills, Trusts & Estate Law

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