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Fleig v. In re Estate of Fleig

Supreme Court of Wyoming

March 16, 2018

WENDY A. FLEIG, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF CHARLES F. FLEIG, by and through Co-Personal Representatives, Timothy L. Fleig and Michael J. Fleig, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the District Court of Park County The Honorable Steven R. Cranfill, Judge

          Representing Appellant: M. Jalie Meinecke, Meinecke & Sitz, LLC, Cody, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee: Bobbi D. Overfield and Michael S. Messenger, Messenger & Overfield, P.C., Thermopolis, Wyoming. Argument by Ms. Overfield.

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL [*] , DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

          FOX, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] Charles and Wendy Fleig executed a signature card to add Mrs. Fleig to Mr. Fleig's checking account at Sunlight Federal Credit Union (the Credit Union). The signature card failed to indicate whether the account would be subject to rights of survivorship; however, the Membership and Account Agreement provided that joint accounts had rights of survivorship unless otherwise indicated on the signature card. After Mr. Fleig's death, his estate sued Mrs. Fleig and the Credit Union, seeking, among other things, a declaratory judgment as to the rights in the checking account. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the estate and we reverse.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] The issue is whether the district court properly concluded that Mr. and Mrs. Fleig owned their checking account as tenants in common with no rights of survivorship and therefore properly granted summary judgment in favor of Mr. Fleig's estate.

         FACTS

         [¶3] The following facts are undisputed. Mr. and Mrs. Fleig were married on June 4, 1992. During most of their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Fleig kept their property and bank accounts separate and each paid a portion of household bills out of their respective accounts. On April 17, 2015, Mr. Fleig drove Mrs. Fleig to the Credit Union and they met with Tammy Walker, a teller at the Credit Union. Mr. Fleig told Ms. Walker that he wanted to add Mrs. Fleig to his checking account. Mr. and Mrs. Fleig signed a new signature card for the account. The signature card contained two boxes, one providing for joint ownership with rights of survivorship and one providing for joint ownership without rights of survivorship. Both boxes were left blank. The signature card also stated:

I/We agree that the changes on this Card amend the previously signed Account Card and are subject to the terms and conditions of the Membership and Account Agreement, Truth-in-Savings Disclosure, Funds Availability Policy Disclosure, if applicable, and to any amendment the Credit Union makes from time to time which are incorporated herein. I/We acknowledge receipt of a copy of the agreements and disclosures applicable to the accounts and services requested.

         Ms. Walker gave Mr. and Mrs. Fleig a copy of the Credit Union's Membership and Account Agreement. The Membership and Account Agreement provided that "[u]nless otherwise stated on the Account Card . . . a joint account includes rights of survivorship. This means that when one (1) owner dies, all sums in the account will pass to the surviving owner(s)." Neither of the Fleigs read the Membership and Account Agreement.

         [¶4] On July 15, 2015, Mr. Fleig died, leaving behind Mrs. Fleig, two sons from a previous marriage, and a considerable amount of money in the checking account.

         [¶5] Mr. Fleig's sons, Timothy L. Fleig and Michael J. Fleig, are the co-personal representatives of his estate. They filed a lawsuit on behalf of the estate against Mrs. Fleig and the Credit Union, asserting several causes of action, including a claim for declaratory judgment regarding ownership of the checking account, the only claim relevant to this appeal. Mrs. Fleig and the Credit Union filed motions for summary judgment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the estate on the question of ownership of the checking account, concluding that the signature card did not create rights of survivorship, that the account was ...


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