You don't need wills or probate courts to close certain types of bank accounts when original title owners die. You can close joint accounts when your co-owner dies by simply presenting the bank with your driver’s license or other official identification. Accounts titled in trusts are closed by successor trustees when the original trustees die. A payable-on-death or POD account is closed by the account’s named beneficiary upon presentation of the original owner’s death certificate.
Contact the state's office for vital records or the county clerk where the deceased account owner died. Request a certified copy of the decedent's death certificate online, by mail, in person or by fax. Pay the applicable fee to obtain the death certificate.
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Present a certified death certificate where the deceased's account is located. Inform the bank you are either a trustee or POD beneficiary for the decedent's account. Provide a copy of the trust if you are closing an account titled in trust. Provide proper identification, such as a driver's license or passport, to establish your identity as either trustee or a named beneficiary on a POD account.
Instruct the bank on how to disburse the account's funds. For example, trustees must distribute funds according to the terms of the trust; a POD beneficiary may request funds be made payable to himself in the form of a cashier's check. Keep all statements from the bank showing accounts were properly closed and disbursed.
Bank accounts titled solely in a deceased person's name generally must pass through probate court. Direct questions about specific account closures to the financial institutions where accounts are located. Direct specific questions about the probate court process to your attorney.
- Ohio State Bar Association: What You Should Know about P.O.D. Accounts
- Forbes.com: When Payable On Death Accounts Backfire
- Judith Fox Attorney at Law: Transfer of Assets at Death
- Michigan Department of Community Health: Birth, Death, Marriage and Divorce Records
- Illinois Department of Public Health: Death Records
Maggie Lourdes is a full-time attorney in southeast Michigan. She teaches law at Cleary University in Ann Arbor and online for National University in San Diego. Her writing has been featured in "Realtor Magazine," the N.Y. State Bar's "Health Law Journal," "Oakland County Legal News," "Michigan Probate & Estate Planning Journal," "Eye Spy Magazine" and "Surplus Today" magazine.