Check on the Checking Account

Melinda's husband who died eight years ago. She didn't probate the estate, and he did not have a will. She is trying to deal with this again but is being given the runaround.

QUESTION: Melinda in Washington had a husband who died eight years ago. She never closed his bank accounts, which were opened in another state. She didn’t probate the estate, and he did not have a will. All these years later, she is trying to deal with this again but is being given the runaround. She needs Dave’s help in figuring out what to do.

ANSWER: Go see an attorney who does estate planning, pay them $250 to get this done, and they’ll get it taken care of for you. If the accounts were opened in Florida and you lived in Oregon at the time, technically the estate would be probated in Oregon. That may be what has to happen. Then the judge appoints you as the executor of the estate, and as the executor you can close the accounts and disperse the money to the heirs, which is you.

But that may take $250 to $500 in attorney fees and court costs to get that done. Or you may just be able to get a simple motion from the court and it may not cost hardly anything. But see an estate planning attorney who knows something about Oregon law and can deal with this.

Estate law or probate law is different from state to state. Florida and California have some very weird real estate laws and estate laws as well. They cannot just turn this loose to you.

What if I walked in there with a death certificate and said I’m his brother and they gave me the money? I can get a death certificate from the state because it’s public record. I can pay $8 and get a death certificate on your husband. Then I can just walk into the bank and claim that I’m his heir. That’s why they can’t do it. They have to have a court document of some kind to keep them from being liable to the real heirs.

Don’t wait another eight years, or the money is going to be gone. They are going to throw this money back to the estate saying it’s an inactive account and the person is deceased and there’s nothing they can do with it. They have to turn it over to the estate after so long. Make sure you deal with it this time, or forget it for the rest of your life and don’t worry about it. But I would take care of it and get it wrapped up.