How to Access the Bank Records of a Deceased Parent

By Kevin Fobbs
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Accessing the bank account records of your deceased parent can be accomplished in several ways. If there are other heirs, a will exists or someone else is named on the bank account, the matter might need to be probated with an executor of the estate making the decision on your access to the bank account records. If you are an adult child and depending upon the size of your deceased parent’s estate, you might be entitled to go into the bank with proof of your familial connection.

Locate your parent’s financial records, insurance accounts and banking statements so that any remaining financial obligations and funeral arrangements can be addressed immediately. Obtain a copy of the death certificate. Locate any official identification documents, such as a driver’s license, state identification certificate, social security number, birth certificate, banking statements and a marriage license or utility bill.

Read bank account documents to see If you were a joint party with the right of survivorship. If you are, then depending upon the other conditions set in the language of the bank account document, you would be entitled to automatic access to any and all funds in the account. By being a co-owner of the bank account or legally having “joint tenancy with right of survivorship” upon the death of your parent, the property or bank account holdings are transferred to you.

Find out if your parent had a will and named someone as executor, or if an executor of the parent’s estate was appointed by the probate court. If there is an executor, your access to the banking account will be determined by the executor. The executor is legally bound by the probate court to the administration of the estate. This includes responsibility for finalizing all aspects of the estate, such as bill payments, disposition of estate possessions, sale of land and financial assets. Access cannot be granted unless the executor believes it is necessary and you are a named heir.

Meet with a local probate attorney, if there is no estate executor, to see if your state has a relevant small estates law. Small estates laws allow an heir to bypass probate proceedings to obtain access to property and monetary holdings. The purpose of these laws is to reduce or completely eliminate court proceedings by submitting a small estate affidavit to a bank, if the estate’s value is $10,000 or less. The law might require you to file the small estate affidavit with the probate court before submission to the bank.

Meet with bank officials as the heir or joint owner of the bank account with right of survivorship. Speak with the bank official responsible for handling decedent accounts. Have original or copies of all relevant documents necessary to establish your entitlement as well as to verify your parent’s identification and banking account.

About the Author

Kevin Fobbs began writing professionally in 1975 and has been published in the "New York Times," "Detroit News," "Michigan Chronicle," "Soul Source" magazine and "Writers Digest" magazine. Fobbs obtained a political science and journalism degree from Eastern Michigan University and attended Wayne State University Law School.