Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Why Have Probate Court At All?

Sue’s father, Luke, passed away last week.  Sue is his only child and has lived with him since her divorce and her mother’s death six years ago.  They were very close, but after Mom passed away, they did not like to talk about death at all.  So they never changed the house deed or any bank accounts, for example.

When Luke passed away, he had several large bank accounts still joint with his wife, and the house was also in both of their names.  Sue’s part-time retail job had allowed her to care for Luke and also provided her own spending money.  But Luke took care of all the house expenses, most groceries, and car costs. 

Sue wants to pay Luke’s funeral bill.  But she doesn’t have enough cash of her own.  The Bank has told her that they won’t allow her to use any money from Luke’s accounts even for the funeral without something from the probate court.

That’s because Luke’s death means that neither account owner (Luke and his deceased wife) is able to sign for money from those accounts, so the Bank is not allowed to release any money, even to Sue who the Bank knows well from the many years she brought Luke to the Bank.

Probate court steps into the breach.  It can authorize the bank to release the money, but it means the money is not the Bank’s to release to anyone until it receives court papers. 

For advice to simplify bill-paying for your family in the event of your death, call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an estate planning appointment.   © 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.

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