It is not uncommon for a person to have a banking, retirement, or other investment account with no designated beneficiary when they pass away.
Beneficiaries can include spouses, children, other family members, friends and charities. Beneficiary designations can generally be added to assets, such as bank accounts, securities accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, savings bonds and a number of other assets. Designating a beneficiary will determine how an asset is distributed at the owner’s death– regardless of the provisions of the person’s will or trust.
The first step is to probate the will of a deceased, assuming she had one, says nj.com’s recent article entitled “My wife died and her account has no beneficiary. What’s next?”
When a person dies without a surviving beneficiary named for an account, the assets go to that person’s estate.
So, if a person left a will, the assets in the banking account would pass to the beneficiaries under that will.
If the decedent had no will, the beneficiaries would be dictated by the laws of the state in which the decedent resided. These are known as intestacy laws, and they describe who inherits if there is no will.
An estate may have to go through the probate process before the decedent’s assets can be transferred to the will’s beneficiaries. It depends on the size of the decedent’s estate, and where he or she lived and died. States have what is called a small estate limit: if an estate falls below that limit, no probate is required.
If you do not need to go through probate, there is a way for a beneficiary to request that a banking account be transferred without a court order. If an estate must go through probate, you will need a court order (which is how probate ends) to have the assets transferred to your name.
Reference: nj.com (Oct. 22, 2021) “My wife died and her account has no beneficiary. What’s next?”
Sims & Campbell, LLC – Annapolis and Towson Estate Planning Attorneys