On appeal from Superior Court, Chancery Division, Monmouth County.
Michels, Shebell and Gaynor. The opinion of the court was delivered by Gaynor, J.A.D.
In this declaratory judgment action, the defendant, Jay Dreznick, appeals from the summary determination that funds on deposit in multiple-party, trustee-beneficiary accounts at the Howard Savings Bank and the Hudson City Savings Bank belong to the estate of May Gold Dreznick, deceased. It is contended that the motion judge erroneously construed and applied the controlling statutes.
On March 10, 1986 and May 9, 1986 the decedent opened accounts in the Howard Savings Bank and Hudson City Savings Bank, respectively, in which she named herself as trustee and the defendant, her son, Jay Dreznick as beneficiary. On or about May 12, 1986 decedent suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized. While in the hospital on May 18, 1986, Mrs. Dreznick wrote and signed a document declaring:
I, May Gold Dreznick, being of sound mind and memory hereby revoke, two bank books that are in the following name
1. Howard Savings Bank in trust for Jay Dreznick 762-777 Manalapan Branch.
2. Hudson Savings Bank in Jersey City, in trust for Jay Dreznick (5 Corner Branch) 02-613560
He is not to benefit in any way by these 2 books or accounts.
Mrs. Dreznick also requested that withdrawal slips for each of the accounts be obtained in the event they were required in order to effectuate her intent and on the following day completed such withdrawal slips. Subsequently, on May 21, 1986, Mrs. Dreznick signed typewritten letters to each of the banks advising that she had decided to change the subject accounts "to read in my name alone " as the accounts were no longer to be trust accounts and enclosing the bank books. [Emphasis in original.] The letters were mailed to the two banks by her son-in-law.
Mrs. Dreznick died on May 21, 1986. However, upon receipt of the letter on May 22, 1986, Howard Savings Bank complied with the instructions and effected the change. The Hudson City Bank allegedly did not receive the letter until June, when a copy was forwarded by plaintiff's counsel, and consequently there was no change in the trustee-beneficiary designation of the account. However, a handwritten note from Mrs. Dreznick requesting the deletion of the beneficiary's name and enclosing the bank book had been received by the Hudson City Bank. But, the employee of the bank did not recall when the note had been received and, because the note did not request that the account be closed, as required by bank procedures, the requested change was not made and the note with the bank book was returned to the sender. A preliminary order barred distribution of the accounts pending disposition of this action.
Concededly, the ownership of the funds on deposit was controlled by the operation of the following provisions of the ...