Dead people cannot own a bank account.
How assets are treated when you die depends on your forethought and goals.
The fate of property can be complicated and confusing.
With proper estate planning, the transfer can be straightforward.
According to a recent Motley Fool article, “Here’s What Happens to Your Bank Account When You Pass Away,“ the most common asset people have is a bank account.
One or more people can bank accounts jointly.
If the account is held jointly, the surviving owner will continue to be an owner of the funds after the other owner’s death.
This is often the way married couples set up their financials.
In Kansas, the account would be titled as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.
In Missouri, the account between spouses would be as held as tenants by the entirety.
A key difference is the Kansas account would not be protected from the liability of one spouse to a third party.
For spouses in Missouri, as long as one was not liable, the entire account balance would be protected.
Yes, different states have different laws.
What happens to a bank account if you are the sole owner?
The answer depends on whether you have arranged for the account to pay on death to one or more people.
If you have named yes, only your death certificate is needed to transfer the account without probate.
Will the individual who is designated as the beneficiary immediately receive access to the funds?
What happens if you do not designate a beneficiary on your account?
The bank account funds will become part of your probate estate unless your probate estate does not include any real estate and the total value of assets (bank account, motor vehicles, etc.) otherwise subject to probate fall within the small estate value for your state.
In Kansas, that value was raised to $75,000 effective July 1, 2023, but it remains at $40,000 in Missouri.
This triggers a procedure that does not involve opening a probate to transfer such assets.
What if real estate is part of the probate estate or the value exceeds the statutory amount?
If you have a last will and testament, the funds from your bank account (and other probate assets) will be distributed to your chosen heirs after probate.
Without a last will, your bank account (and other probate assets) will be distributed according to the laws of your state.
Even if you do not have close family, you should have a last will to decide who inherits when you die.
You can name friends or a favorite charity.
If you have someone specific in mind to inherit your bank account, specifically name this individual as the beneficiary of your account.
Your bank will be able to provide you with the appropriate paperwork to fill out and submit.
By setting up beneficiary designations and creating a last will, you can ensure your property will be inherited by people of your choosing rather than the state.
Kansas and Missouri have very favorable non-probate transfer statutes providing for the direct transfer of almost all assets from bank accounts to real estate.
Your estate planning attorney can guide you regarding the best approach for your unique circumstances.
Reference: Motley Fool (Sep. 5, 2023) “Here’s What Happens to Your Bank Account When You Pass Away“