Obitia, LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an Affiliate Advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Obitia is supported by its users. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.
After a loved one has passed away, their assets and bank accounts (their estate) will need to go through the probate process and be used to pay final expenses. If there is any money left over, it will be distributed to their heirs according to their last will and testament or state law (if there is no will).
Depending on the type of the account or how they were set up will affect the way the account will be transferred (e.g., whether it happens automatically or whether the executor of the estate will have to file additional documentation with the institution to initiate the process).
The responsibility for transferring (and collecting all the deceased’s property) is that of the executor or personal representative named in the last will and testament. If you are the executor and do not have a legal background, it may be a good idea to speak with a probate attorney or find a good resource to walk you through the probate process and responsibilities of being an executor of an estate.
How to Transfer a Bank Account of a Deceased Person
Accessing and transferring accounts of loved one is an important task after the funeral or memorial service. This process can either be very simple or more complicated, depending on a number of factors. How the account owner set up the account, whether or not there are joint holders, and whether a beneficiary is named or not, are all factors that affect the holdings of the deceased.
Transferring as a Joint Account Holder
If the account was held jointly—among spouses, children, or someone else—the survivors named on the joint account, with proper identification, can access, withdraw, deposit, or manage the account as necessary. If possible, it is important to know the structure prior to death, specifically, who are the joint holders, what are the account numbers, as well as the bank or credit union policies.
Transferring as an Account Beneficiary
Account owners can name a beneficiary prior to death. A beneficiary is not able to access the account at any time while the owner is alive. Upon the death of the owner, banks and credit unions require a completed ‘Payable on Death’ or POD form to be submitted. Once submitted and approved, beneficiaries of the deceased can access, transfer, or manage holdings and balances.
A POD form is a document from the banking institution which requires information confirming a beneficiary’s identification and the death of the account owner. Typically POD forms can be completed with a certified death certificate, government-issued ID, and banking information.
Transferring a Bank Account with No Named Beneficiary or Joint Holder
Sometimes account owners pass away without naming bank account beneficiaries or joint holders. It is common to assume you are a joint account holder or a named beneficiary on your loved one’s bank account(s) if you have Power of Attorney or are a beneficiary of other financial assets, like retirement accounts, Social Security benefits, or employer pensions.
Legally, you are not able to access the deceased’s bank holdings unless you appear in Probate Court, where a judge will review several legal documents, such as wills, trusts, and estates, to determine who can manage bank assets.
Claiming Money From a Payable-on-Death Bank Account
For savings accounts or certificates of deposit (CDs), the deceased account owner may have named a payable-on-death (POD) beneficiary for the account. That means that when the account owner (or the last surviving owner, in the case of a joint account) dies, the POD beneficiary can simply claim the money from the bank. This transfer of assets does not involve the deceased account holder’s will nor any probate court involvement.
Because resolving the financial affairs and estate of a deceased loved one can be complicated, it may be best to hire an attorney to guide you (if you are the executor or personal representative) through the probate process. Whether or not to hire outside help will be the decision of the person responsible for the estate.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, accounting or tax advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.