Atlanta Estate Planning, Wills & Probate | Siedentopf Law

What Happens to Money in the Bank if There is No Will?

Wondering what will happen to any money you have in the bank if you die without a Will? Today’s article will unpack that question and provide some insight as to why proper estate planning matters so much.

You Really Need a Will

If you have any assets, debts, or own properties of any kind, you have an estate, so you need an estate plan. A Will is just one piece of the estate planning puzzle, but it’s a big one. Everyone needs a Will. Spoiler alert: you probably need more than a Will, but you absolutely need a Will.

Watch this video to learn more about the basics of estate planning.

What if I don’t have a Will and I die?

If you die without a Will, you have died intestate. Intestate is a fancy legal term that means “died without a will”. 

The Court has specific processes for probating estates. There is a process that is followed when a person dies with a valid Will. This process includes filing the Will with the probate Court and then following the steps until the estate is closed out as outlined in the Will—including the payment of all debts and then the distribution of assets to beneficiaries. This is a long and sometimes complicated process.

There is another process for intestate estates. Since there is no Will, the process and rules are different. And this process is usually even longer and much more complicated.

Every item of the estate must be accounted for, each asset and debt tallied, and every single potential heir must be identified and notified. An Administrator must be named and must gather all the paperwork, asset information, and information for each potential heir. The Court has specific rules for how and when property is distributed to those heirs.

Bank Accounts also have their own special set of rules. In some cases, the deceased may have designated a beneficiary to receive the funds upon their death. Sometimes this is called a “payable on death” (POD) or “transfer on death” (TOD) account. In other cases, no provisions have been made and must follow the rules of the Probate Court.

The State of Georgia has a law in place that allows the financial institution to release the funds to the next of kin, as provided by the succession laws of Georgia, upon receipt of an affidavit by the next of kin. This affidavit can be used in the event that the bank account’s value is $15,000.00 or less. 

This law, OCGA 7-1-239 for all your legal nerds out there, states that the succession of distribution of these funds should go to:

  1. The surviving spouse;
  2. If no surviving spouse, to the children, proportionally;
  3. If no children or surviving spouse, to the father and mother, proportionally;
  4. If no surviving spouse, children, or parents, then to the siblings of the deceased, proportionally.

If the bank account’s balance is more than $15,000.00, the account will have to go through the Probate process to be released to the proper heirs. This could take a substantial amount of time—especially without a Will naming each beneficiary directly.

Regardless of the value of the bank account, having a Will in place will help the probate process flow more smoothly and efficiently— providing far fewer bumps in the road for those you’ve left behind.

Commonly Asked Questions About “What Happens to Money in the Bank if There is No Will?”

What happens if no beneficiary is named on a bank account and no will?

If no beneficiary is named on a bank account and there is no will, the account will typically go through the probate process. The court will determine how to distribute the funds according to state intestacy laws, which prioritize legal heirs such as spouses, children, parents, or siblings.

Can a family withdraw money from a deceased bank account?

Family members usually cannot withdraw money from a deceased person’s bank account without proper authorization. After death, access to the account typically requires legal documentation such as a death certificate and letters of administration or testamentary issued by the court. Unauthorized withdrawals can result in legal consequences.

When someone dies what happens to their money in the bank?

When someone dies, the money in their bank accounts becomes part of their estate. The process of distributing these assets depends on whether the deceased had a will and the probate laws of the state. The funds may be used to settle debts, taxes, and administrative expenses before distribution to beneficiaries or heirs.

Do banks freeze accounts when someone dies?

Banks often place a temporary freeze on the deceased person’s accounts to prevent unauthorized access and ensure proper handling of the funds. Access to the account typically requires legal documentation, such as a death certificate and court-issued letters of administration or testamentary.

Get Your Estate Plan in Order Today

Dying without a Will adds technical complications to the stress and emotional anguish your family is already under. Having your estate plan in place will give you peace of mind for the future of your loved ones and will relieve some of the stress and tension for your loved ones at the time of your death.

Our team is here to help you determine which estate planning tools are best for your situation and family. Call us at (404) 736-6066 or visit our website to schedule a consultation. 

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