It is rare to find someone who dies without owning a bank account in Florida. A common question is whether the bank can release funds without probate, as the decedent’s loved ones often need the funds to pay funeral costs and other expenses.
Can a bank release funds without probate in Florida? Read on to find out.
Can a Bank Release Funds Without Probate in Florida? – The Essentials
When a Florida resident dies owning a bank account, a decedent’s loved one or the executor named in the last will must notify the financial entity responsible for the account. Without proper notice, the bank will assume the account holder is still alive.
Once the bank is notified, the entity will immediately freeze the account. After freezing the account, it is possible to protect the decedent’s remaining funds and preclude anyone from withdrawing any money without authorization.
The next step will depend on how the decedent’s account was titled and whether the account has designated beneficiaries.
Probate Assets vs. Non-Probate Assets
If a Florida resident dies owning a bank account solely in his name, it must go through probate. The same rule applies to life insurance policies and brokerage accounts listing the deceased or its estate as beneficiaries.
During probate, the court will appoint an executor by issuing Letters of Administration. With court-granted authority, the executor can access the decedent’s bank account, withdraw the remaining funds, and transfer them to an escrow account.
Please note that the estate is responsible for paying all expenses involved in probate administration and settling the decedent’s unpaid debts. If necessary, the executor can use the funds held in escrow to cover these costs.
Once the executor transfers the money to an escrow account, the bank can close the decedent’s account.
Some types of bank accounts do not need to go through probate, allowing the decedent’s loved ones to rapidly access the money. Non-probate bank accounts include:
- Accounts owned in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship
- Accounts owned in tenancy by the entirety (exclusive to married couples)
- Accounts titled in the name of a trust
- Retirement accounts
- Accounts with payable-on-death (POD) beneficiaries
- Accounts with transfer-on-death (TOD) beneficiaries
- Life insurance policies or brokerage accounts listing beneficiaries that are neither the decedent nor the estate
Should Florida Bank Accounts be Part of an Estate Planning Strategy? – Efficient Solutions
Dealing with the death of a loved one creates a burden for the individuals responsible for the decedent’s estate.
At the same time, they need to grieve the passing of a family member, handle funeral arrangements, collect various documents, submit the decedent’s will in court, and perform several other tasks.
While the decedent’s estate is responsible for paying any remaining bills or debts, waiting until probate is over to access the money in the bank account may result in a stressful situation.
Depending on the amount of debt or payment obligations involved in the process, the money held in the decedent’s account might not be sufficient for distribution to the beneficiaries after probate administration is closed.
The best approach is to work with a Florida estate planning attorney to ensure your loved ones will have access to your bank account when they need it most, ensuring they will be provided for when you are no longer among them.