Account ownerships in financial institutions are different. You’re right; it is difficult to obtain the funds in a bank account without certain documentation.
Usually a bank will want to see the death certificate; they usually will take a photocopy for their records but must see the original. They also need to see the will showing that you are the representative of the estate.
Often there isn’t a will, which means you go to your local courthouse and ask to be named the executor of the estate. That document from the courthouse along with the death certificate will usually allow you to close out accounts or transfer the funds to an estate account depending on the size of the estate.
One way a person can protect themselves and still help family to avoid probate is to name a beneficiary on the account. By naming a beneficiary, you can bypass a Will entirely. All funds in that account belong to the beneficiary at death. That person shows up at the bank with their ID and the death certificate.
The upside of beneficiaries: You have total control over your funds; sometimes these are called Revocable Trusts on the signature cards which means you can go in anytime and change the name of the beneficiary.
The downside is if you become incapacitated, no one has access to your funds. You can appoint someone to have Power of Attorney, POA for short, for you, but more and more financial institutions will not accept general POA’s.
If you think a POA might be a good alternative along with naming beneficiaries talk it over with the family members that you are concerned with early on. A POA cannot be granted if the person is mentally unsound. Power of Attorney’s also become null and void at death.
Credit Unions operate a little differently sometimes, but still similar enough to get by.
If your bank doesn’t meet your needs, take your business and your hard earned $$$$ elsewhere. Afterall, they do make money off of us in fees. They also make money by using our money, yet pay us such paltry interest.
Also, there is another way. My grandma listed her 3 children on her bank accounts but as payable on death. Her kids couldn’t touch the money until after her death. Once the bank had a copy of the death certificate they combined her accounts with my dad and his brother getting a third each. The other third, for my aunt, was split between her four kids since she’d died a few months earlier. My grandma kept all of her money safe and secure while she was alive. Near the end she did put my dad and mom on her checking account so they could pay her expenses for the nursing home. Don’t know if this helps.
So then what do you think of me? I am a finance manager at a car dealership. 🙂 My job goes against everything this group is about, but I do what I have to do to pay my bills. I SEE people who have been rock bottom, come in and sign their life away on a new high interest loan to “re-establish their credit”. I think it is crazy, I’d never do it, but I guess if nothing else, it reminds me DAILY of what I am trying to get out of.