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Information to Lawyers about Decedents' Accounts

We receive letters quite often from attorneys representing deceased customers or their estates. The requests are usually for a listing of “all funds on deposit with the bank owned by the decedent, either individually or jointly with others, including types of account, account numbers and balances as of the date of death.” If a Death Certificate and Letters Testamentary or Affidavit of Heirship are furnished, we provide this information. However, we recently had a case where there was a joint account on record with the wife and also a money market account with only the son as the other owner. Both accounts were joint with right of survivorship, no POD. Since the account ownership transferred to the son on the money market account, should we have included the particulars on that account in the response to the attorney’s letter? Do you have any archived webinars or papers addressing similar situations for us on which to do training?

Answer by John Burnett:The purpose in obtaining information about accounts that were joint prior to the death of a depositor is not to take control of such accounts, but to determine whether the estate has any tax or other liability based on total assets owned at time of death. There is no reason not to provide the attorney the requested information, and to indicate the name of the POD payee or surviving joint owner(s), as the case may be. One webinar on CD-ROM that you might find helpful for training is "Issues with Deceased Customers," presented by Mary Beth Guard and John Burnett, available in the BOL Banker Store.


Answer by Ken Golliher: A competent attorney will also request copies of the documents that establish any claimed right of survivorship, and if they are not compliant with state law, will request that you deliver those funds to the personal representative of the decedent's estate.

First published on 8/02/10

First published on 08/02/2010

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