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Legal Eagle
Legal Eagle, Lawyer
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My grandmother passed away 10/5/17 after living in a nursing

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My grandmother passed away 10/5/17 after living in a nursing home for several years. She purchased a life insurance policy several years ago in which she believed she had named me the beneficiary. After her passing, I filed the paperwork with her life insurance company and received a check made payable to my grandmother (she had named herself as beneficiary). Upon receiving the check, I visited the bank to deposit the check into the jointly owned bank account that I shared with my Grandmother. They accepted the deposit but now, after funds have cleared, they state they will only issue a cashiers check made payable to "The Estate of Grandmother ...". They also indicate that I will need probate forms in order to open a new account in the name of "The Estate of Grandmother".
I have her will but I've not done anything with probate as I believed that for a simple situation such as this (no assets, no property) I would receive a check made payable to myself from the life insurance company.
Obviously I'd like to have this matter resolved as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Thank you

Hello! I am a licensed attorney, admitted to practice in state and federal court. I have a nearly 100% satisfaction rating (click here for more info) so all that means is that you can count on me to help today. Because I want to provide you with the most accurate answer possible, do you mind if I take a moment to review your question?

Please keep in mind that our conversation does not include an attorney-client relationship and this is for general information purposes only.

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Thank you. Forgot to add that the state is Florida

I'm sorry to hear about your loss. So, the downside is that if the bank is requiring that you get authority from the court to get the check, then you'll have to get authority from the court. These are called "letters testementary" that you would get from the court. The reason is because since this $ was designated to your grandmother's estate, the only way out of this is if you can a) find a will that your grandmother had that left you the $; b) find out for certain that you were supposed to be the beneficiary; or c) get authorization from the probate court.

It usually starts with a petition to the court that you are the personal representative of the estate and would like to distribute her assets. The law says that a person without a will has their decedents take the property from their estate. If there are no other living spouses, children, siblings, or parents, then the money will be split between you and anyone else that calls her grandma by blood or by law.

Because I value your input, I would like to know whether you have any other questions for me today that I could help you with?

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Thank you for the reply. I have her will in which she states I am both the executor of her estate and the beneficiary to her life insurance policy. What I can not understand is, even with these documents, why this needs to go through probate court. You state "the only way out of this is if you can a) find a will that your grandmother had that left you the $; b) find out for certain that you were supposed to be the beneficiary..." Both of these are true, so is there another way to open "The Estate of Grandmother" bank account without letters of testamentary?
Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Additionally, if probate is necessary and I filed for summary administration, no letters of testamentary are granted- correct? So, in light of this and with my situation, am I forced to file for formal administration?

I understand. The reason is because some banks require that you get the court's approval because it helps the bank ensure that you're not a fraudster. Some banks don't require it and would only require that you provide a death certificate and some identification. So, unless you can get an exception from the bank, you'll have to go through probate to get these funds. If you get a summary administration, then that will be adequate to prove that you at least have the court's authority to begin transferring assets. Since summary administration still has to go through the probate courts, the banks are almost satisfied that you have taken at least those steps to ensure that you are who you say you are and that the will is legitimate. Does that make sense?

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
Thank you for the reply and for the insight. I was concerned that, since the Order for Summary Administration does not specifically name me as executor or personal representative, nor direct the bank to distribute funds, that a bank may not recognize that as adequate to open an "Estate of..." account.
I appreciate your clear answers to my questions.

I can certainly understand and you're welcome. If the bank gives you a hard time, explain that summary administration is vastly different than full blown probate and you have the court's authority to begin transferring assets. Thus, if you are a beneficiary in the will that has been at least reviewed by the court, then you should be able to transfer the money minus any letters testementary.

Did you have any other questions for me at all today?

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