Bank and Financial Account Statements – Not Always Reliable
When a loved one dies, not much can be concluded from their bank or financial account statements as to the assets that have been left to beneficiaries or how they should be distributed.
Frequently, people open bank accounts and investment accounts with what is known as a “designation of beneficiary” to transfer on death (or TOD). The funds or stocks in those accounts will not go through Florida probate. So if a designated beneficiary or personal representative finds a recently issued bank statement or investment statement with substantial funds, it will provide absolutely no guarantee that those funds will be going through the Florida probate process. That money may end up being paid directly to a beneficiary, who may or may not be named in the Will.
The frustrating aspect of TOD accounts is that the family members themselves often do not know such accounts were set up. Unless the person who opens the account specifically includes a TOD reference, the bank will not disclose information to anyone except the owner (now deceased) or a beneficiary who presents a valid death certificate. If a grieving wife believes that the funds on her husband’s bank or investment account will come to her through probate, she may learn when it is already too late that the funds were set up to be paid pay on death, for example, to her husband’s grown son or, even worse, to his ex-wife because he forgot to change the designation of beneficiary upon divorcing her.
This is why you should not make any assumptions based on financial statements found in the name of someone you love after that person dies. It may take a while to determine who has inherited any specific account.
How to Find Out if a Deceased Parent Left You Any Assets
When someone dies, their assets pass to their beneficiaries according to the terms outlined in their will. If the deceased did not leave a will, the death will be considered “intestate,” and the Florida probate court will distribute the estate assets in accordance with state law. As the child of the deceased, you may be entitled to inherit some of the assets in the decedent’s estate regardless of whether your mother or father left a will behind. The executor of the will or the probate court will notify you of any inheritance you are to receive after one of your parents has passed away. However, The Florida probate process is not by any means perfect and beneficiaries may not always be informed of their inheritance. If you believe you are entitled to some of the assets of your deceased parent’s estate, there are several options available to you, depending on whether there is a valid will. Here is what you should do:
The first thing you can do to find out if a deceased parent left you any assets is visiting the court in which the will was probated. Once the Florida probate process is complete, the will becomes a matter of public record. In the public records, you can read your deceased parent’s will to determine whether there were assets left to you.
Visit the unclaimed property database and conduct a search under your deceased parent’s name. If any assets left behind upon death went unclaimed, the state will manage the money until the rightful heir is found.
Contact the executor of your deceased parent’s estate. The executor of a will is responsible for managing the decedent’s assets and debts after his or her death. The executor’s responsibilities include notifying all beneficiaries and heirs of their inheritances. Because the executor has a copy of your deceased parent’s will, he or she will know which assets were set aside for you (if any).
If your mother or father died without a will, you can contact the administrator of the estate designated by the court. The responsibilities of an administrator are very similar to those of an executor. When someone dies without leaving a will behind, the court will name an administrator who will be responsible for ensuring that the decedent’s assets are properly distributed in accordance with state law. The administrator of your deceased parent’s estate can provide you with detailed information as to the contents of the estate and which assets you are entitled to under Florida intestate succession laws.
This is not, however, something you necessarily have to go through on your own. Hiring a qualified Florida Probate Attorney to be by your side and represent you is certainly something you should consider.