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Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 102162
Experience:  Fully licensed attorney in Texas in private practice.
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This is a question for probate in California, My sister

Customer Question

This is a question for probate in California
JA: What documents or supporting evidence do you have?
Customer: My sister passed away and had no children no spouse my mom was the beneficiary on her life insurance my dad was listed on the death certificate. My dad is trying to close her bank account which the value of her personal property is 20, 000.00 or less. Does he have to go to court for this?
JA: Since laws vary from place to place, what state is this in?
Customer: This is for California can he file (Form DE-310). or is there an easier process?
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: That sums it up
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  Ely replied 8 months ago.

Hello and welcome to JustAnswer. Please note: This is general information for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed herein, and no attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by speaking to an expert on this site. By continuing, you confirm that you understand and agree to these terms.

I am very sorry to hear about your family's loss.

Unless your sister's account had a payable on death clause (POD) that names him as the beneficiary, he cannot (or should not) have any access to that account and cannot close it without first filing for a probate action.

When someone passes away, then their estate has to be distributed. The problem is that without probate - with assets such as titled property or bank accounts (those that do not have a pay on death clause) - this is hard to do. This is because you cannot switch over the assets without an order from the probate court, and simply a Certificate of Death will not do. A Certificate of Death simply states that someone has passed on, but does not give you the right to really do anything in the deceased's name.

So one files probate. Once probate is filed, the Executor of the estate gets something called a Letter of Testament/Administration (hereinafter "Letter"). This Letter will allow the Executor to switch over the assets from the deceased individual to whoever will own the property. It is like a "Power of Attorney," but from the Court. Without that Letter, there is no way to transfer titled property and switch the assets into the heirs' names.

If there was a Will, the beneficiaries are decided per the Will. If there was no will, the beneficiaries are decided by default succession law of the state.

Now - assuming the bank account has no POD clause, he needs the Letters of Testament/Administrator to access it. This would involve filing for probate. However, her estate may be liable for small estate administration which is GENERALLY DONE VIA MAIL and is much simpler. See HERE and HERE. This gives the Letter of Testament/Administrator quicker and easier.

I hope this helps and clarifies. Please use the SEND or REPLY button to keep chatting, or please RATE when finished. You may always ask follow ups at no charge after rating. Kindly rate my answer as one of TOP THREE FACES/STARS and then SUBMIT, as this is how experts get credit for our time. Rating my answer the bottom two faces/stars (or failing to submit the rating) does not give me credit and reflects poorly on me, even if my answer is correct. I work very hard to formulate an informative and honest answer for you; please reciprocate my good faith with a positive rating.

Expert:  Ely replied 8 months ago.
Hello again. This is a courtesy check in to see if you needed anything else in regards ***** ***** question because you never responded or replied positively. I am simply touching base. Let me know. Thanks!