Only two of Plutarco Balli’s five children are entitled to nearly one-quarter of a million dollars held in several bank accounts, according to an Arizona Court of Appeals decision released last month.
Plutarco Balli died in December 2016, just two days after his 84th birthday. He was born in Texas, but spent most of his life in Arizona, where he volunteered with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, Tucson Police Department, and Arizona Department of Public Safety after retiring from the U.S. Air Force with 20 years of service.
Shortly after Plutarco Balli’s death, one of his five children -Eduardo- filed a petition for formal probate of the father’s estate. However, one of Plutarco Balli’s two daughters objected to Eduardo’s petition, and she was eventually named personal representative of their father’s estate.
Eduardo Balli went on to challenge to the inventory of the estate as prepared by the sister, Sylvia Balli-Gardner. According to Eduardo, three bank accounts registered in the names of his two sisters and their father should have been included in the inventory of Plutarco Balli’s estate.
The accounts were worth nearly $250,000.
But last year, Judge Kenneth Lee of the Pima County Superior Court denied Eduardo’s claim, finding the accounts were registered in such a way that when one owner died his or her interest automatically passed to any surviving owner or owners. As multiple-party accounts, they are non-probate assets, Lee ruled.
The Arizona Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the Pima County judge’s ruling, noting if Plutarco Balli intended for anyone except his two daughters to share in the $246,957 assets he could have instructed the financial institution accordingly.
Prior to 1994, an heir in Arizona could challenge the status of monies held in joint accounts by showing “evidence of a different intention.” Since then, any jointly held accounts under a right of survivorship “may not be altered by [a] will,” the appellate decision notes.
The court filing does not mention whether Plutarco Balli intended to keep his other three children from sharing the funds in the three joint accounts, or if he may have provided other legacies for those children.
Eduardo has until Aug. 20 to file a petition for review with the Arizona Supreme Court.
Plutarco Balli was laid to rest at the Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Sierra Vista.