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Bank accounts are an important part of estate planning

People here in California generally understand how important it is to prepare for the ends of their lives, but often people don’t know exactly where to begin. One very simple step is to make sure that their bank accounts will be handled in accordance with their wishes upon their passing. If the person hasn’t taken the time to do this, all is not lost, though it is much easier for one’s heirs if this part of estate planning has already been managed.

When a bank account is first created, people will often designate a beneficiary for it as part of the process. This is the perhaps the easiest method, but doesn’t always happen. In that case, the account may become the responsibility of an estate executor. If the person doesn’t have a will or a designated beneficiary, a court-appointed administrator may handle the account. Once the money has been used to settle any debts owed by the account owner, the remainder is distributed to heirs. In the case of a joint bank account, ownership typically passes to the other person or people named on the account.

While the deaths of most account holders are reported to a bank by family members of the deceased, sometimes this isn’t what happens. A funeral director typically tells Social Security about a person’s death, no matter the circumstances, and Social Security may contact that person’s bank in turn, to request the return of any payment made after the person’s passing. However, what normally occurs is that a family member of the person who died will present a death certificate and any other needed documentation to the bank.

It is easy to see how naming a beneficiary for bank accounts and other assets is a crucial part of estate planning for anyone. Those here in California who want to create an estate plan or modify an existing one may want to speak with an attorney who has experience in this area of the law. Doing so may be one of the best things a person could do for their loved ones.

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