In general, the executor of the estate handles any assets the deceased owned, including money in bank accounts. If there is no will to name an executor, the state appoints one based on local law.
Bank accounts pass to heirs through an estate or via beneficiary instructions. You can potentially avoid probate with payable on death (POD) beneficiaries or joint tenancy with rights of survivorship. When you die without a will, state laws or automatic transfers determine who receives funds.
Funds in accounts with rights of survivorship generally pass automatically to the other joint account holder, so these funds do not fall under the will's authority. Since the will can only control probate assets, the funds in the account cannot be distributed according to what the will says.
Since it's not part of their estate and, therefore, no longer their property, then it also means that it can't be bequeathed or otherwise transferred as part of the execution of a will. The sole owner can also then close a joint bank account after death.
After your death (and not before), the beneficiary can claim the money by going to the bank with a death certificate and identification. Your beneficiary designation form will be on file at the bank, so the bank will know that it has legal authority to hand over the funds.
Some times beneficiaries want to see more detailed documents such as a Deceased's bank statement or pension documentation. Strictly speaking a beneficiary has no entitlement as of right to such documentation and it is your discretion as Executor whether or not to disclose it. The nature of the beneficiary's interest.
Banks will usually release money up to a certain amount without requiring a Grant of Probate, but each financial institution has its own limit that determines whether or not Probate is needed. You'll need to add up the total amount held in the deceased's accounts for each bank.
When an account holder dies, the next of kin must notify their banks of the death. This is usually done by delivering a certified copy of the death certificate to the bank, along with the deceased's name and Social Security number, plus bank account numbers, and other information.
Once a Grant of Probate has been awarded, the executor or administrator will be able to take this document to any banks where the person who has died held an account. They will then be given permission to withdraw any money from the accounts and distribute it as per instructions in the Will.
The amount of time it takes for a bank to release someone's funds after their death will vary depending on whether probate is required, but generally banks will release the money within 10-15 working days of receiving the correct documentation.
It is important to understand that the only funds that can be released from a deceased's bank or building society account before probate is issued is to settle funeral expenses and inheritance tax (if any). An executor is named in the will and it is this person who is entitled to apply for probate.
Many banks and other financial institutions will not require sight of the grant of probate or letters of administration if the account value is below a certain amount. This threshold is determined by the bank, and as such this varies for each bank and financial institution.
Keeping proper accounts
An executor must account to the residuary beneficiaries named in the Will (and sometimes to others) for all the assets of the estate, including all receipts and disbursements occurring over the course of administration.
Ways an Executor Cannot Override a Beneficiary
An executor cannot change beneficiaries' inheritances or withhold their inheritances unless the will has expressly granted them the authority to do so. The executor also cannot stray from the terms of the will or their fiduciary duty.
So, what if you're left a gift in a Will? When a specific sum of money is left to a beneficiary, it's known as a Pecuniary Legacy. These beneficiaries are not entitled to see a copy of the estate accounts, and they are not, generally, entitled to more than the stated share.
There is nothing legally forcing an executor to open an executor account, but it is recommended that they do. If an executor chooses not to open an executor account, it is still recommended to use an independent bank account separate from their own finances.
It is up to the executor's discretion as to whether they distribute any money before probate. However, an executor should consider how a beneficiary receiving their inheritance early could affect the rest of the estate administration.
It isn't legally possible for one of the co-executors to act without the knowledge or approval of the others. Co-executors will need to work together to deal with the estate of the person who has died. If one of the executors wishes to act alone, they must first get the consent of the other executors.
The bank will have the paperwork, signed by the deceased owner, which authorized the beneficiary to inherit the funds. The beneficiary can withdraw the money or open a new account.
This is needed to allow them to access the money and assets of the person who has passed on. Even for a simple estate, it is likely to take three to six months for funds to be allocated after probate has been granted.
Paying with the bank account of the person who died
It is sometimes possible to access the money in their account without their help. As a minimum, you'll need a copy of the death certificate, and an invoice for the funeral costs with your name on it. The bank or building society might also want proof of your identity.
If a bank account has no joint owner or designated beneficiary, it will likely have to go through probate. The account funds will then be distributed—after all creditors of the estate are paid off—according to the terms of the will.
No. If you have made a Will, your executor(s) will be responsible for arranging your affairs according to your wishes. Your executor may appoint another person to act on their behalf.