What Happens To A Bank Account When Someone Dies Without A Will?

What Happens To Bank Account When Someone Dies Without A Will - How Long Can You Keep A Deceased Person's Bank Account Open

What happens to a bank account when someone dies without a will?

In this article, you’ll learn about: 

  • what happens to the deceased person’s bank accounts without a will
  • how long those accounts can stay open
  • how to claim those bank accounts
  • how to find those bank accounts
  • what to do if you’re not on your spouse’s bank account
  • do you have to remove their names from a joint account
  • do you have to open an estate account
  • how to find out if you’re a beneficiary
  • do these bank accounts have to go through probate

Keep scrolling to learn more.

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What Happens To A Bank Account When Someone Dies Without A Will?

When someone dies without a will:

  • The bank account becomes part of the deceased’s estate.
  • Laws of intestacy determine how the estate is divided.
  • The next of kin usually inherits the assets.
  • A court may appoint an administrator for the estate.
  • The administrator gathers assets, pays debts, and distributes the remainder.
  • The bank releases funds after receiving the right legal documents.
  • Beneficiaries can then access the inherited funds.

How Long Can You Keep A Deceased Person's Bank Account Open?

There is no legal time limit on how long you can keep a deceased person’s bank account open. 

This means there’s no requirement for how long you have to notify the bank of the death. 

The banks will find out about the death either from:

When a person dies, their bank account remains active until the bank is informed of their death. 

After being notified, banks often freeze the account, halting any further transactions. 

The estate’s appointed administrator or executor is then responsible for the account.

And ensuring financial matters like:

  • debts getting settled 
  • assets getting distributed to beneficiaries

The time to close the account depends on how quickly these tasks are finalized.

This duration can differ based on the estate’s intricacies. 

If the account sees no activity for 6 to 12 months, banks usually categorize it as “inactive.” 

Following a longer inactivity period, typically 3 to 5 years, the account might be labeled “dormant.” 

At this stage, banks will attempt to notify the account holder or their representatives. 

If unsuccessful, the dormant account’s funds often transfer to the state’s unclaimed property division. 

The bank may then close the account or maintain it with a zero balance, waiting for potential reactivation. 

Read More: What Is A Child Entitled To When A Parent Dies Without A Will?

How To Claim Deceased Bank Accounts

Here is how to claim a deceased person’s bank account: 

  1. Obtain a copy of the death certificate.
  2. Identify if there’s a will. If yes, locate the named executor.
  3. Approach the bank with the death certificate.
  4. Present proof of your relationship or entitlement (e.g., will, Letters of Administration).
  5. Complete any bank-required forms or paperwork.
  6. Await bank verification and review.
  7. Once approved, the bank releases funds or transfers the account as directed.
  8. In the absence of a will, follow local intestacy laws to determine rightful heirs.
  9. Ensure all debts and obligations of the deceased are settled before distribution.
  10. If challenges arise, fill out the form on this page to talk to a probate lawyer. 

Read More: How To Transfer Property After The Death Of A Parent Without A Will

How To Find Bank Accounts Of A Deceased Person

Locating the bank accounts of someone who has passed away is essential for settling their financial affairs. 

Here’s how to find bank accounts of a deceased person:

  • Check Personal Documents: Look through the deceased’s files, papers, and mail for bank statements or related correspondence.
  • Review Past Tax Returns: They might have interest or dividend income from bank accounts.
  • Contact Their Attorney: If they had one, their estate planning attorney might have information on financial assets.
  • Speak with Their Bank: If you know where the deceased banked, visit or call them with proof of death and your relationship.
  • Use Unclaimed Property Websites: Governments often have websites listing unclaimed assets. Search using the deceased’s name.
  • Hire a Probate Researcher or Investigator: They can assist in tracking down assets.
  • Check Digital Records: If you have access, explore their computer or phone for digital banking clues.
  • Monitor Their Mail: Over time, banks may send statements, notices, or other communications.

My Husband Died And I Am Not On His Bank Account

When your husband dies and you’re not listed on his bank account, getting access to his account can be challenging. 

Here’s what to do if you’re not on your husband’s bank account when he dies:

  • Obtain the Death Certificate: Get a certified copy, as banks and other institutions will require it.
  • Review the Will: If your husband left a will, it might specify who inherits the bank account.
  • Approach the Bank: Inform the bank of your husband’s passing and provide them with the death certificate. They’ll guide you on their specific process.
  • Proof of Entitlement: If you’re named in the will as the beneficiary of the account, present it. If there’s no will, you may need other documentation, like Letters of Administration, to prove your entitlement.
  • Debts and Obligations: Before funds are distributed, ensure all of your husband’s outstanding debts and obligations are settled.
  • Local Intestacy Laws: If there’s no will, your entitlement to the account will be determined by local laws. This typically means the spouse is the primary heir, but specifics can vary.
  • Legal Support: If the process becomes complicated or if there’s a dispute, consider seeking legal assistance to guide you through the process.

Is It Necessary To Remove Deceased Spouse From Bank Account?

Yes, it is necessary to remove a deceased spouse from a bank account.

This ensures clarity in financial records and prevents potential legal or administrative complications.

Do You Have To Open An Estate Account When Someone Dies?

In general, yes, you do have to open an estate account when someone dies. 

The only reason you wouldn’t is if the estate does not need to go through probate

You won’t need an estate account for things like: 

FAQs About Bank Accounts When Someone Dies

Here are other questions that people ask about accessing bank accounts when someone dies. 

How To Find Out If You Are A Beneficiary On A Bank Account

Being a beneficiary in a bank account is different from being named in a will. 

Beneficiaries typically receive bank account funds directly, bypassing the probate process.

Here’s how to find out if you’re a beneficiary on a bank account: 

  • Start by Contacting the Bank Directly: Visit in person or call their customer service. Ask if you’re listed as a beneficiary on a specific account and be prepared to provide identification for verification.
  • Review the Deceased’s Documents: Go through personal files or safe deposit boxes to look for account statements or other bank-related documents that might mention beneficiaries.
  • Speak with the Deceased’s Attorney: They might have information on bank accounts and named beneficiaries, or copies of related bank documents.
  • Reach Out to the Executor or Administrator: If someone is handling the deceased’s financial matters, they might be aware of the beneficiaries for bank accounts.
  • Be Ready with a Death Certificate: Some banks require a copy of the deceased’s death certificate before discussing account details. Providing this can expedite the process.

What Happens To Bank Account When Someone Dies Without Beneficiary?

When someone dies without naming a beneficiary for their bank account:

  • The bank account becomes a part of the deceased’s estate.
  • The account goes through the probate process.
  • If the deceased had a will, the will dictates who receives the funds.
  • If there’s no will, state laws determine who inherits the money.
  • An appointed executor or administrator handles the distribution.
  • The bank may require a death certificate to release account information.
  • Funds are used to pay the deceased’s debts before distribution to heirs.
  • Once debts are settled, the remaining funds go to the rightful heirs or next of kin.

Can Executor Use Deceased Bank Account?

Yes, an executor can use the deceased’s bank account, but only for specific purposes. 

The executor is appointed to manage the deceased’s estate. 

This role allows them to access the bank account to pay off debts, funeral expenses, and taxes. 

Additionally, the executor is responsible for:

  • gathering assets 
  • distributing them to beneficiaries using the account 

However, they cannot use the funds for personal reasons. 

Any misuse of funds can lead to legal consequences, so it’s crucial for the executor to keep detailed records of all transactions.

What Is The Punishment For Taking Money From A Deceased Account?

Taking money from a deceased person’s account without legal authority is considered theft or fraud. 

The punishment for this crime varies based on:

  • Local Laws: In the U.S., for example, penalties for theft or fraud vary from state to state, with some states imposing fines of up to $10,000 or more and prison sentences ranging from a few months to several years.
  • Amount Taken: In many jurisdictions, thefts of smaller amounts, such as under $500, might be treated as a misdemeanor, while larger sums can be classified as felonies with heftier penalties.
  • Criminal Intent: A person who accidentally takes money might face lesser charges than someone who deliberately commits fraud. However, both can lead to legal consequences.
  • Prior Convictions: A first-time offender might receive a lighter sentence, such as probation, while a repeat offender might face a longer prison term.

Punishments for taking money from a deceased account can include:

  • Fines: The offender may have to pay money as a penalty.
  • Restitution: The thief might need to return the stolen money.
  • Probation: Offenders might be under supervision instead of going to jail.
  • Imprisonment: Severe cases can lead to jail or prison time.

Do Bank Accounts With Beneficiaries Have To Go Through Probate?

No, bank accounts with designated beneficiaries typically bypass probate. 

When the account holder dies, the funds directly transfer to the beneficiary. 

This setup helps avoid the time and expense of the probate process. 

The beneficiary usually needs to provide the bank with the death certificate and identification to access the funds.

Get Help With Getting Access To A Bank Account

If you need to get help from a probate lawyer, fill out the form below. 

At The Hive Law, we understand the importance of:

  • protecting your hard-earned assets 
  • ensuring your family’s future

We only accommodate a limited number of clients each month.

So don’t miss your opportunity to work with our esteemed estate planning attorneys.

Benefits of our probate services:

  • Tailored solutions to fit your unique needs and goals
  • Expert guidance in navigating complex tax and legal matters
  • Preservation of your wealth for future generations
  • Streamlined asset distribution according to your wishes

Avoid the pitfalls of inadequate estate planning:

  • Creditors seizing your assets
  • Lawsuits jeopardizing your family’s financial security
  • Family disputes over inheritance
  • Costly and time-consuming probate processes

Talk soon.

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