Bank accounts after death

By Marcie Geffner -

It's a morbid thought, but the fact is that a dead person can't use a bank account. So what happens to a bank account -- and the money in it -- when someone dies?

The answer depends on whose name is on the account and whether the account is held in a living trust, according to Michael Halloran, a wealth management adviser in Jacksonville, Fla.

If the account isn't held jointly or in a trust -- and Halloran says such lack of planning is the case more often than not -- the account becomes off limits until the estate is settled in a court proceeding. In the meantime, a judge may issue a letter to allow an executor or administrator of the estate access to the account, but only to pay so-called "last expenses" (e.g., funeral costs).

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