Bank Accounts

Other than real estate, bank accounts usually represent the largest part of any estate

Often the reason for probate is that a bank account is in the name of the testator and the only way that the money can pass to the beneficiaries under the Will is to probate the Will. The reason being, despite there being a Will in place, no bank will simply hand over the money to the beneficiaries or executor. The Banks, for fraud security reasons, will want the money transferred to the “Estate of the Testator”. In the result, the executor has to go through the cumbersome process of seeking appointment as the Executor/Administrator of the Estate and after that, can approach the bank for payment of the proceeds to the Estate’s bank account.

There are many occasions where the bank account goes to another party on death of the testator. For example, on death, money in a joint bank account transfers over to the co-owner of the account without going through probate. The only way the executor can collect the money is by consent of the co-owner or if a “presumption or resulting trust” is made out in Court.

Where the proceeds of the joint bank account are found to be part of the estate is where the co-owner is actually just on title in order to help pay for the testator’s bill and the money in the account is all of the testator’s money. In other words, the co-owner was just acting as a power of attorney over the account.

There are some bank accounts where you can designate a named beneficiary to receive the account proceeds upon death. There is little an executor or beneficiary under the Will can do to pull the money back into probate for ultimate distribution to the named beneficiaries under the Will. Hence, money paid out to a designated survivor will most often flow over to the named beneficiary under the bank account without going through probate.

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