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estate planning and elder law

What Happens to My Bank Account When I Die?

How Your Heirs Receive Money From Your Estate Plan
You need money in a checking account, so you can pay your bills on an ongoing basis. You also need money in a savings account for emergency expenses, such as when your roof springs a leak or your car gives you trouble.

What happens to my bank account when I die? What if you die and money is left in your bank account? What happens to that money will depend on whether you have a joint account. If you don’t have a joint account, what happens to your money will depend on whether you have a beneficiary designated for your account. Beck, Lenox & Stolzer Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC states that the bank account of a just deceased person is often among the very first topics raised by family members.

Motley Fool’s recent article, “Here’s What Happens to Your Bank Account When You Pass Away,” says that married people commonly open joint bank accounts. Sometimes, non-married family members open accounts jointly for different purposes.

If you have an account with a spouse or another person, and you die, the account will generally become the property of the joint holder. iI you designate a beneficiary on your bank account, that person will generally be entitled to receive the money in it. This is true even if you don’t have a will.

Even with a designated beneficiary on your bank account, the account will likely have to go through probate. Sometimes, a will could make it so you can avoid probate. However, even if not, it will be clear to whom the money in your bank account is supposed to be assigned.

If you don’t have a spouse, children, or other relatives, and you pass away without having designated a beneficiary for your bank account, after the probate process, the money in that account will likely become the property of your estate. However, this will generally only occur if you don’t have a will or a beneficiary on your account and have no clear beneficiaries that can be identified through the probate process.

It may be that you have no family but have an old friend that you want to leave your money to in the event of your death. If you want such wishes carried out, you’ll need a will.

It’s a good idea to put a will in place, even if you don’t have much in the way of assets.

A valid will on file makes it more likely that your wishes are carried out upon your death. If you’re certain you want a specific person to receive the funds from your bank account after your passing, make them your account’s beneficiary.

If you’re uncertain how to do that, talk to your bank and ask what paperwork you must submit. Taking a little time to designate a beneficiary could make it so a person you care about gets your money after you pass, instead of becoming state property.

Beck, Lenox & Stolzer offers a free initial phone consultation with our attorneys for someone who needs to have estate planning documents prepared or older estate planning documents reviewed. While this article is focused primarily on bank accounts and wills, a trust may serve you better than a will.  Click here for a brief overview on that topic. Our experienced attorneys can recommend what would best meet your goals. Schedule your consultation here.

Reference: Motley Fool (Sep. 5, 2023) “Here’s What Happens to Your Bank Account When You Pass Away”

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