BEFORE PRATHER, SULLIVAN AND GRIFFIN
GRIFFIN, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:
This case, concerning the ownership of certain accounts at State Mutual Federal Savings & Loan Association in Jackson, comes to the Court from the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, Mississippi. The lower court, sitting without a jury, entered a judgment for the appellee. We affirm.
On February 10, 1967, Bessie Thomas opened an account with State Mutual in the name of Gloria Carter, her grand-niece. Again on September 3, 1968, she opened an account with State Mutual in the name of Katherine Carter, her sister. Also, on October 29, 1973, she opened an account with State Mutual in the name of Maudell Stevenson, her niece. The named accountholders are appellants here.
On January 15, 1982, the appellants attempted to withdraw money from the accounts, noted above. Jim Davis, State Mutual's managing officer, refused payment, stating that Thomas had used the account as collateral for various notes, held by the Association. Failing in their attempt, the appellants instituted the present suit, seeking to recover the money.
At trial, each appellant testified, claiming ownership of the account which listed her respective name. Each also denied the grant of any authorization to use her account as collateral for loans. Specifically, Gloria Carter testified that she had long been aware of the account's existence. Although she admitted that Thomas had made all of the deposits, except for $1500.00 paid to Carter as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, she claimed the account's balance of $32,828.64 as her own.
Katherine Carter testified that she had opened her own account and deposited her own money therein. She also stated that the bank book had remained in her possession, and that she had regularly received dividend notices from State Mutual as interest accrued.
Finally, Maudell Stevenson testified that, although Thomas had opened the account at State Mutual, its balance represented her own money. Stevenson also stated that in May, 1977, she had deposited an additional $2,000.00 into the account.
This Court held in Staley v. Brown, 244 Miss. 825, 831, 146 So.2d 739, 741 (1962), that" in the absence of notice to the contrary, ownership of a deposit is presumed to be in the depositor, and the bank is bound to pay him on proper demand "(citation omitted). This is consistent with 9 C.J.S. Banks and Banking 993 (1938), cited by both parties:
Ordinarily, the entries in the books of the bank and in the pass book of the depositor are presumptive evidence of the ownership of the account, and where a person deposits money in a savings bank to his individual credit, this shows prima facie that it belongs to him, but such entries on the books of the bank and in the pass book are not conclusive evidence of ownership of the deposit, and in a proper case the ownership of the account may be shown to be in a person other than the one in whose name it stands. Although both authorities concern a bank, the same rule applies to a savings and loan association.
Clearly, State Mutual's evidence rebuts the presumption of ownership, and supports the judgment of the lower court. Without dispute, Thomas opened the accounts for Gloria Carter and Maudell Stevenson. Thomas also claimed to open the account for Katherine Carter. In fact, all three accounts listed Thomas' address, though the plaintiffs resided in Chicago.
As early as 1976, Thomas informed Davis that the money in the three accounts was her own. She repeated this to Davis, when in January, 1982, the plaintiffs attempted to withdraw funds held in their names. Davis also testified that, during his tenure at State Mutual starting in 1976, only Thomas had transacted business in the accounts. This is consistent with Thomas' previous statement to the effect that Katherine Carter was not even aware of the accounts' existence.
In addition, there is the testimony of Katherine Carter and Maudell Stevenson. In two separate exchanges at the trial, Katherine Carter claimed that each new account opened in her name represented the transfer of fresh funds into State Mutual, though this contradicted her attorney's stipulation. Also, Maudell Stevenson had previously claimed to have a balance of $25,000.00 at State Mutual, though at trial she claimed only approximately $3,500.00. Moreover, this account, which she claimed to own in 1982, had in fact been closed in 1976, with the funds applied toward a note given by Thomas to State Mutual.
Finally, a handwriting expert testified that, although Thomas' known signature displayed agreement with the signature on bank documents bearing her name, the plaintiffs' known signatures displayed in most instances disagreement with the signatures on bank documents bearing their names. This is consistent with Davis' testimony that he witnessed Thomas sign Gloria Carter's and Katherine Carter's names to bank documents.
Finding the above to constitute substantial evidence in support of the lower court's finding that Thomas exercised exclusive control over the accounts, there was no valid inter vivos gift to the plaintiffs. To make a valid inter vivos gift, several requirements must be met: (1), the donor must be competent to make a gift, (2), there must be a free and voluntary act by the donor with the intention to make a gift, (3), the gift must be complete with nothing left to be done, (4), there must be delivery by the donor and acceptance by the donee, and (5), the gift must be gratuitous and irrevocable. Shapero v. Guaranty Bank and Trust Co., 381 So.2d ...