My neighbor said she was unable to get into an account after her husband’s death because it was only in his name. Can the bank do this to her even if she had been married to him for 55 years?
– Concerned on Crispin
Dear Concerned on Crispin:
Two-year-olds aren’t the only ones who can say, “Hands off!” Yes, banks can deny access to an account (and you won’t be smiling if they do).
The way a financial account is titled is extremely important. The title of an account determines ownership and ownership determines who has access to funds after a death.
I have worked with a number of surviving spouses whom were told “hands off” by a bank because they were not an owner or beneficiary of the account. It did not matter if the surviving spouse was known at the bank by name.
In California, an account may be frozen for a minimum of 40 days, depending on how it was titled and the balance. After this “cooling off” period, additional legal work must be completed to gain access. In some cases, a court petition may be required.
Please review each account that you own. Determine who is on title and whether there is a beneficiary. Get familiar with different forms of title.