Justin, my mother died last month. She had a will leaving everything to me, her only son. I’m also her executor. When I went to the bank to close out her accounts, they wouldn’t even talk to me, even though I had the will with me. Can you help? – Johnny
Johnny, thanks for writing about this frustrating situation. Unfortunately, it’s more common than you might think. The reality is that your mother’s will does not give you access to her bank accounts, nor does it give you authority to take over any other assets she owned at death. Instead, your mother’s will only gives you the right to go to court to open a probate on her behalf and request that the judge appoint you as administrator of her estate.
Before taking that step, you might consider asking the bank if there were any co-owners on the account with your mother or whether anyone was listed as a POD (pay on death) beneficiary. You might think the bank would have already offered that information to you, but if you didn’t ask directly, whoever you spoke with might not have checked on that. If there is a co-owner or the death beneficiary but it isn’t you, the bank still won’t give you much information, but at least you won’t be wasting your time with probate.
If there is no co-owner or beneficiary designation, your only remaining option is to speak with an attorney about probate. Depending on the amount involved, you might prefer to pursue a small estate probate. That process is quicker and less expensive than the full probate process, but it’s only available in limited circumstances.
If you need to speak with someone about a probate issue, our attorneys can help. We have offices in Springdale, Bentonville, and Fort Smith. For more information on estate planning and elder law issues please call our central number of 479.750.1101 and we will get you directed to the office nearest you!