When death occurs in the family, there are a lot of moving parts and important paperwork to keep track of. It is important to make sure that the monetary assets in your bank accounts are taken care of, to make it easier for your beneficiaries. Knowing what you need to prepare for each account type will make the account transference smoother, when the time comes.

Accounts in Your Name

Bank accounts that are solely in your name can be held up temporarily upon your death. The account will have to go through the probate or administration proceeding with Surrogate’s Court, unless you specify a specific payable-on-death (POD) beneficiary. Naming a POD beneficiary requires you only to fill out and submit a form, which can be provided by your bank; which will allow your loved ones to receive the money without the need for an estate proceeding.
In order for them to access your bank account, they will need to produce a copy of your death certificate and their ID. Without naming a POD beneficiary, your heir will need Letters Testamentary from the Surrogate’s Court. Letters Testamentary grant your Executor (under Will) or Administrator (no Will) the authority to manage the assets titled in your individual name at the time of death.

Joint Bank Accounts

Joint bank accounts, such as the one you have with your spouse or business partner, can be set up in one of two ways upon your death. With an a Rights of Survivorship account, the co-owner will become the sole owner of your account. This means that upon your passing, they will gain full control of the account.
Accounts that are not established without Rights of Survivorship, such as single accounts that added a co-owner, can be given a new co-owner upon your death. An example of this could be the account that you and your spouse control, where on your passing, you name one of your children to take your place as co-owner.
If your account document does not specify if your joint account is a co-tenancy account, or if the Rights of Survivorship are not stated; check with your bank. With some banks, these are left out on account creation, and sometimes they are implied. Be sure to meet with someone at your bank to go over your account details, and to make sure that they reflect your wishes.

Accounts Held in Trust

If a living trust was set up by you to provide funds to your family for after you pass, you can hold an account in the name of the trust. Upon your death, the funds in the trust can be transferred to the heir by the successor trustee, without the need for probate.
You should talk with your estate lawyer before establishing a trust. To transfer a bank account into a trust, fill out the proper paperwork with your bank, they will change the account type. You will see the name of your Living Trust in your new bank statements.

For more than 40 years, our firm has been assisting people like you with long term care and estate planning needs. We bring you the knowledge and resources to protect you and your family. Armstrong & Lamberti, PLLC do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice by articles. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. Call 718.477.7700 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation with an estate planning attorney at Armstrong & Lamberti, PLLC. We proudly serve Staten Island, Brooklyn and the other boroughs of New York City.