What Happens to a Deceased Person’s Bank Account?

Legally reviewed by:
King Law
June 30, 2024

Following a loved one’s death, you may have a lot of questions about how to move forward with your life and support your family. After all, what happens to a bank account after the account holder’s death? What if there’s a joint owner to the account? We can answer your questions and support you if you have a relevant case, so you don’t have to handle legal matters alone. At King Law Offices, we are dedicated to serving communities across both North and South Carolina, ensuring everyone has access to quality legal representation.

Our practice spans a broad spectrum of legal fields, including family law, estate planning, and civil disputes, with the overarching goal of safeguarding our clients’ best interests through comprehensive and compassionate legal services. We are committed to addressing the complexities involved in managing a deceased person’s bank account, guiding our clients through the probate process, clarifying beneficiary designations, and fulfilling all legal and financial responsibilities promptly and with dignity.

Who Gets the Bank Account Funds?

How a deceased person’s bank account will be treated after they pass will depend on how they owned the bank account as the account owner.

Several different questions need to be answered in order to determine who gets the bank account funds after an account holder dies, including:

  • Was the deceased person the sole owner of the account?
  • Is there a named beneficiary?
  • Did the account holder have a will?

As with most estate planning matters, the account holder can have full control over who will get your bank account funds when you pass by creating an estate plan.

What Happens Without an Estate Plan?

When an account holder dies without an estate plan for assets—including their bank accounts—these assets, the deceased person’s bank accounts, can be distributed in unintended ways.

The process can be especially confusing if there is a surviving account holder or other complications. Because there are so many complications to managing assets, we recommend you work with an attorney from King Law for support.

Do You Need Proof of Death to Collect Assets?

In most circumstances, beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate will need to have access to a copy of the account holder’s death certificate, even if you have been named in the will as a beneficiary.

Having access to the death certificate will help demonstrate that a survivor’s claims are accurate, and banks generally require beneficiaries to present them before withdrawing money from any individual account is permitted.

Account Ownership and Beneficiary Designations

If you owned the bank account as a joint owner with another person or named a beneficiary, the joint account will pass to that surviving account holder.

The joint account holder will receive the balance whether you do or do not have a will, as this is the general practice of joint bank account rules.

What happens to a deceased person’s bank accounts will depend on the general ownership of any accounts. Joint account holders should be involved if the asset needs to be discussed.

How are Joint Bank Accounts Handled?

Bank accounts and certain other assets with a joint account holder or designated beneficiaries are transferred outside of the probate process.

A surviving owner will generally receive funds from a shared bank account when someone who shares the account dies.

If your total probate assets—including a bank account—are under North Carolina’s threshold for small estates, your estate may qualify for a simplified probate procedure as well. A joint account holder or other owners of assets should be included as much as possible in the process.

Do Estate Plans Help You Pick Beneficiaries?

Naming a beneficiary for your bank accounts and retirement accounts is a simple way to keep assets out of probate and clearly designate you should receive the accounts.

This will ensure you still have a will to control other types of property, including bank account beneficiaries, relative or legal representative persons, and what else happens to your estate.

A deceased person’s estate should be controlled by their own wishes as much as possible.

If you need assistance determining what will happen to your loved one’s bank account and other assets, we can help you. Our firm can help you determine what steps you should take next if you are unsure about where certain bank accounts will go. We can also assist you in many other ways, so don’t hesitate to contact King Law for support.

Bank Accounts That Go Through Probate Court

If a bank account has no joint owner or designated beneficiary, it will likely have to go through probate court. Joint accounts would not necessarily go through the same probate process. The bank account funds will then be distributed—after all creditors of the estate are paid off—according to the terms of the will made by the account holder.

When a person passes without a will, North Carolina’s intestacy laws control who receives their property. Assets, including bank accounts, typically pass to a surviving spouse and the decedent’s children first. Feel free to contact King Law to gain invaluable support from a probate attorney.

How Does Probate Work With a Deceased Person’s Bank Account?

If an account holder is unmarried and childless, assets and bank account values will go to the next of kin, beginning with parents, then siblings, and finally more distant relatives. This situation is not ideal because the decedent does not have any control over who receives their property.

To control who will get your assets and bank accounts and avoid unnecessary probate court matters impacting your family, have an estate planning attorney draft your will and review your situation to determine if any further estate planning strategies are needed.

An attorney from King Law can assist you with your bank accounts and other assets, assuring the values go to the people you select and trust. We can help you name a designated beneficiary for all your assets.

Contact Our Experienced Estate Planning Lawyers Today

When the owner of a bank account passes away, navigating the legal and financial aftermath can be complex and emotionally challenging. King Law handles estate planning matters in North and South Carolina, including wills, trusts, and estate administration. We understand the intricacies of estate and asset management during such difficult times. Our experienced attorneys are here to guide you through every step, ensuring the deceased’s financial matters are handled with care, respect, and legal compliance.

We’ll help you understand your options, whether it’s accessing funds to cover immediate expenses, closing accounts, or distributing assets in accordance with the will or state laws. Reach out to King Law Offices when you call (888) 748-5464 or (888) 748-KING, or complete our contact form for compassionate and valuable assistance in estate planning and administration. Our commitment is to provide accessible legal services across North and South Carolina, ensuring your loved one’s legacy is honored, and your legal rights are protected.

Legally reviewed by:
King Law
Carolina Attorneys
June 30, 2024

This blog post has been reviewed and verified by legal experts at King Law. Our team is dedicated to providing premium legal services with compassion, innovation, trust, and advocacy. Serving Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina, we offer flexible meeting options and strive to exceed client expectations with high-quality legal representation and exceptional client relationships.

Previous Post
Cost-Effective Probate: Why Communication is Important