Estate question re: bank accounts

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Topic Author
stw
Posts: 36
Joined: Wed Jul 05, 2017 10:29 am

Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by stw »

My father in law passed away unexpectedly last week. My wife and I have been trying to help her mom get through a few things. We have run into a couple of roadblocks.

1) They have separate personal bank accounts at different banks. He did not list her as a beneficiary on it.

2) He had an LLC for his post-retirement part-time practice. For that LLC, he had a business banking account at a different bank. He did not have his wife listed on the LLC nor on the bank account associated with it.

They have a joint will. We are working to get several copies of death certificates. It looks like those two accounts would be under $30k in total. The estate is not large, so any money she can get access to will be helpful.

What is the easiest way for her to get access to both of those accounts? Is it possible to unwind them without legal help?

Thank you.
Silk McCue
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Joined: Thu Feb 25, 2016 7:11 pm

Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by Silk McCue »

Sorry for your family's loss.

You are going to have to go through probate to gain access to these. It sounds like a small estate so hopefully the cost will be low. Depending on where you live you may be able to file without using a lawyer. Hoping that the will is simple. Check prices if you have to hire a lawyer.

Cheers
LittleMaggieMae
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Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by LittleMaggieMae »

sorry for your loss. all I can add is get more death certificates than you think you will need (if they offer a flat rate for some quantity like 10 do that).

It's a pain (as in takes time and effort) and pricey to have to keep getting a certificate every few months as the need arises. Sometimes places want to keep the certificate as part of the "paperwork".
delamer
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Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by delamer »

I’m sorry about your father-in-law.

Usually the funeral home will arrange for you to get copies of the death certificate. If it has not, ask. It will also report the death to the Social Security administration.

I’d certainly try going to the banks involved in person with your MIL, the death certificate, and possibly proof of marriage, and see if you can get access to the accounts without getting a lawyer involved.

You also could start with the county/city registrar of wills in regards to what you need to do. When my father died, my mother and I went there to record his will and they staff answered some basic questions for us. (You may need to do this by phone or e-mail due to the virus).

Just to be clear, your in-laws can’t have a joint will. Their individual wills can have the same provisions, but one will for 2 people isn’t possible.

If you need legal help, consider starting with the lawyer who drew up the wills or drew up the LLC paperwork.
MrsBDG
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Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2017 4:04 pm

Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by MrsBDG »

They have personal accounts and she is not beneficiary and is also not on the account as a joint owner? So HE had banks accounts in just his name?
OhioGozaimas
Posts: 339
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 2:27 pm

Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by OhioGozaimas »

I'm sorry for your family's loss.

I suggest googling your banks to check for their basic info/processes. This may give you a starting point.

As just one example, here is an overview as posted by BofA:
https://www.bankofamerica.com/life-serv ... -services/

Best regards.
Map out your future – but do it in pencil. – Jon Bon Jovi
delamer
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Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by delamer »

MrsBDG wrote: Wed Jun 24, 2020 1:01 pm They have personal accounts and she is not beneficiary and is also not on the account as a joint owner? So HE had banks accounts in just his name?
Lots of married couples don’t hold everything jointly. She had her own separate account too.

And just because she was not a named beneficiary doesn’t imply/mean that someone else was. It’s just a detail that some people don’t think to handle.
Last edited by delamer on Wed Jun 24, 2020 4:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
FIREchief
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Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by FIREchief »

stw wrote: Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:20 am They have a joint will.
Is this really true? I've never heard of a "joint will."
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.
zxllxz
Posts: 48
Joined: Fri Jun 08, 2018 7:43 am

Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by zxllxz »

Sorry for your family's loss.
Start by Googling "How to do probate in "your state" and find the state's probate court web site. There you will find information on how to proceed. Some states have a simplified probate based on the value of the estate, usually $25k there about. Most states will let you file probate yourself, but depending on the value of the estate and complexity it may be wiser to hire a lawyer. Find out who the executor is, if named in his will. That is the person who would file probate.

Best of luck.
mptfan
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Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by mptfan »

stw wrote: Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:20 am 1) They have separate personal bank accounts at different banks. He did not list her as a beneficiary on it.

2) He had an LLC for his post-retirement part-time practice. For that LLC, he had a business banking account at a different bank. He did not have his wife listed on the LLC nor on the bank account associated with it.
...
What is the easiest way for her to get access to both of those accounts? Is it possible to unwind them without legal help?
There is only one way for her to get access to both of those accounts and that is to go through probate. It's possible to do it without legal help but I would not recommend it.
senex
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Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by senex »

I've gathered (from bogleheads) that in Uniform Probate Code states, small estate administration is pretty easy. Depending on the amount, you may not even need to go to court -- just sign an affidavit. Example: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia ... 32038.html

bsteiner has said elsewhere that in some states, the clerks will fill out the forms for you. viewtopic.php?t=285173#p4631541

So, with a little research, you can probably do this without a lawyer. Given the amounts, I personally would hesitate to hire a lawyer, due to ratio of lawyer fees to recoverable assets. Trying yourself is free.
RetiredCSProf
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Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by RetiredCSProf »

Sorry for the loss of your father-in-law.

What state? Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see a state mentioned. My parents were residents of NH when my father passed away. NH is not a community property state, and my parents each held assets individually.

If your father-on law bequeathed "everything" to his wife, then the bank accounts may be included, even if not specifically mentioned. I don't know if this is state-dependent.
tibbitts
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Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by tibbitts »

mptfan wrote: Wed Jun 24, 2020 2:43 pm
stw wrote: Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:20 am 1) They have separate personal bank accounts at different banks. He did not list her as a beneficiary on it.

2) He had an LLC for his post-retirement part-time practice. For that LLC, he had a business banking account at a different bank. He did not have his wife listed on the LLC nor on the bank account associated with it.
...
What is the easiest way for her to get access to both of those accounts? Is it possible to unwind them without legal help?
There is only one way for her to get access to both of those accounts and that is to go through probate. It's possible to do it without legal help but I would not recommend it.
Wow this is a horror story that should encourage everyone to register accounts properly. I found that Florida made life easy for me with less than $75k in assets to deal with using the small estate affidavit - which is nice considering how the state is dedicated to making life as miserable as possible for anyone owning real estate and wanting to have that transfer on death.
Silk McCue
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Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by Silk McCue »

tibbitts wrote: Wed Jun 24, 2020 4:56 pm
Wow this is a horror story that should encourage everyone to register accounts properly. I found that Florida made life easy for me with less than $75k in assets to deal with using the small estate affidavit - which is nice considering how the state is dedicated to making life as miserable as possible for anyone owning real estate and wanting to have that transfer on death.
Sorry to hear that. Florida supports the use of Lady Bird Deeds that result in the property passing immediately upon death without being probated.

Cheers
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Flobes
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Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by Flobes »

Condolences on your family's loss, and commiserations on the hassles that lie ahead.

In my experience, if you go to an institution (or business) in person, they will make a copy of the death certificate as well as the letter of testamentary (from the probate process), and you walk out with your originals. Additionally, you get the benefit of a friendly contact person.

However, if you proceed by mail, you will have to send in original documents, which will probably be returned to you, and probably not promptly.
not4me
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Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by not4me »

FIREchief wrote: Wed Jun 24, 2020 2:00 pm
stw wrote: Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:20 am They have a joint will.
Is this really true? I've never heard of a "joint will."
Don't know if it is true in this specific, but they do exist. I'm not sure if available in all states or the main selling points.
delamer
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Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:13 pm

Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by delamer »

not4me wrote: Thu Jun 25, 2020 8:57 am
FIREchief wrote: Wed Jun 24, 2020 2:00 pm
stw wrote: Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:20 am They have a joint will.
Is this really true? I've never heard of a "joint will."
Don't know if it is true in this specific, but they do exist. I'm not sure if available in all states or the main selling points.
To my surprise, there is such a thing as a joint will: https://www.freewill.com/learn/what-are-joint-wills

I learn lots of interesting things on this forum.
Topic Author
stw
Posts: 36
Joined: Wed Jul 05, 2017 10:29 am

Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by stw »

Thank you, all, for the kind words. It has been a difficult week on many fronts.

I am looking at the will. It says at the top, "Mutual and Conjoint Will". I had not heard of that before going through this process.

Thanks for the advice to order several death certificates - we put in an order for 10 for now. We are in Oklahoma.

We found something called a Small Estate Affidavit through the county courthouse. However, one of the lines says, "Said Decedent died without leaving a last will and testament and leaving a deposit account at...". Because they do have a will, the credit union won't let us use this form.

Thanks for all of the links. We will do some reading and research on this.
lgb
Posts: 104
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Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by lgb »

I strongly recommend you go to the Library or possibly even purchase used or new - The Executors Guide - Settling a Loved One's Estate or Trust. I believe it is tied to the website www.nolo.com.

It is just a very well laid out book covering quite comprehensively steps, common and complex issues and has a good index that you can have at your side over the next month(s).

Very little of it is irrelevant and if not relevant to your situation you'll learn things you had no idea about I'm certain. I'm not saying you have to read it end to end, but you can absolutely get the gist of things by perusing and digging into the areas that you have the biggest question marks about.

We paid probably a few grand for attorney assistance (mostly just discussing things and some things they had to do with the courts that we didn't feel comfortable with) and their actual value was perceived very low by the entire family, but this free library book was by far more useful to us than the actual attorney. Not that the attorney couldn't have charged us for answering questions and done fine, but this book answered it for us in many cases and devalued the attorney's actual importance in a sense. Granted, a simple Probate case or Trust case may be pocket change work and they may have already made their money on the front end if a Trust was involved by charging for the document and tailoring to needs.

Check it out.
aristotelian
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Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by aristotelian »

Banks can be tough to deal with in this situation. I was helping my MIL and BofA would not even give her access to husband's business checking even though the business was jointly owned (the checking account was in his name). Would not tell her the balance or anything. Everything else was either TOD or jointly owned.

As I recall, they would not do anything until we got a lawyer and filed a "summary release" (basically a court document that appoints her as executor and gives her claim to the assets without having to go through full probate due to the small size of the estate). The amount in the bank accounts was barely worth the lawyer fees and court costs to set it up.
Dottie57
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Re: Estate question re: bank accounts

Post by Dottie57 »

delamer wrote: Wed Jun 24, 2020 12:11 pm I’m sorry about your father-in-law.

Usually the funeral home will arrange for you to get copies of the death certificate. If it has not, ask. It will also report the death to the Social Security administration.

I’d certainly try going to the banks involved in person with your MIL, the death certificate, and possibly proof of marriage, and see if you can get access to the accounts without getting a lawyer involved.

You also could start with the county/city registrar of wills in regards to what you need to do. When my father died, my mother and I went there to record his will and they staff answered some basic questions for us. (You may need to do this by phone or e-mail due to the virus).

Just to be clear, your in-laws can’t have a joint will. Their individual wills can have the same provisions, but one will for 2 people isn’t possible.

If you need legal help, consider starting with the lawyer who drew up the wills or drew up the LLC paperwork.
Some States have simpler rules for estates less than a given small amount. My left less than 75k. In Minnesota. All accounts are POD, IRA has beneficiaries and home has transfer on death deed. So it is personal property Including a car. I can sign an affidavit and have ability to sell the Car ( 20 yr old Buick. Creaky but comfy).
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