What to Know When Handling the Bank Account of a Deceased Loved One

The last thing someone wants to worry about during a difficult time is dealing with the assets of their deceased loved one. How to deal with them actually depends on how the bank accounts were owned. Our probate process will help determine who receives ownership of what, whether it’s a bank account or personal valuables.

We can guide you through the process of facilitating the ownership of a deceased loved one’s assets. Call us today to get started.

Sole Ownership Bank Accounts

If a deceased person owned a bank account but did not designate a payable-on-death beneficiary, then it’s likely that the account will have to go through probate. What is probate? Basically, it’s a court-supervised procedure where all of the deceased’s assets will be given to inheritors.

There is very little court supervision, unless there are family members fighting for assets. Most of the time, probate is just paperwork. Also, if the total value of assets is small enough to qualify as a “small estate”, then the inheritors can simplify the probate procedure to claim the money.

Payable-On-Death (POD) Beneficiaries

When money comes into play, the beneficiaries named by the deceased simply have to go to the deceased’s bank to claim the money with a death certificate and identification. The bank should have the document that designates the POD beneficiary.

Jointly Owned Accounts

The surviving owner of a joint account will, in most cases, automatically become the account’s sole owner. The account will more than likely not need to go through the probate process to be transferred to the survivor.

The Right to Survivorship

Most – but not all – bank accounts held under two names will carry with them what is called a “right to survivorship”, which means that when one person dies, the survivor will automatically become sole owner. Texas has a requirement to create a joint tenancy-account where both owners must sign a separate agreement to create the joint tenancy. This is in addition to the registration card the bank hands out to joint account holders.

Possible Disputes

There is no debating a joint-account holder access when their loved one has passed. If two people are married and one dies, the survivor will be the sole survivor and owner of the joint account. Things, however, can get tricky when a person (usually elderly) adds someone to his or her existing bank account.

Most of the time, this is done for convenience so that the secondary person can write checks or access services that might be too complicated for the elderly owner. Other times, though, a person is added to have access to funds for funeral arrangements and the expenses that come with it. That being said, the person added to the account will become the owner when the original dies. They’ll be able to spend funds on whatever they choose, and unless otherwise documented, family can do nothing to prevent this.

Accounts Held in Trust

Most people who own valuable assets put them into living trusts to avoid probate proceedings down the line. Just like other trusted assets, the account will be under the full control of the successor trustee, and if there are any funds or valuables to be transferred to other family, it will be his or her job to do so under the terms of the trusted document. We can provide advice on how to protect your assets through a trust.

Offering You Exceptional Services

Following the passing of a loved on, the last thing family members should worry about are legal documents, bank account uncertainties and living trust questions. At Barrera, Sanchez & Associates, P.C., we’ll give you comprehensive legal advice on any probate service you need. Contact our probate lawyers in McAllen today to get started.

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