Bank accounts and probate

On Behalf of | Aug 15, 2023 | Probate

Probate is the process in which the court oversees the transfer of assets from the deceased testator to the named beneficiaries. Assets can take many forms and may include bank accounts. Beneficiaries in Georgia may wonder if probating a checking or savings account is necessary. In some instances, it is required, but it is not always necessary depending upon TOD beneficiary designations.

Probate and bank accounts

If a bank account is held in one person’s name, it becomes necessary to probate the checking account. When the will states that the checking account goes to a particular beneficiary, that person will receive the money. However, the estate must settle debts before distributing assets. So, if the deceased testator owed money, some or all of the money can come from the checking or savings account.

Regardless of the laws regulating wills and probate, the assets in a joint checking or savings account go to the survivor when one owner dies. Probate is unnecessary. If only one owner and the owner named a transfer-on-death beneficiary, the account goes to the named beneficiary upon the owner’s death. If it is jointly held and there are named transfer-on-death beneficiaries, the surviving owner becomes the sole owner and may change the beneficiaries.

Estate checking accounts

Beneficiaries may confuse the probating of a checking account with an estate checking account. An estate checking account exists to pay the estate’s debts and holds funds from the estate. An executor of the estate handles tasks associated with opening an estate account and settling the deceased’s obligations.

A Georgia resident might name beneficiaries on transfer-on-death accounts during the estate planning stage. This way, assets can pass to the beneficiaries without going through probate. The estate planner might also consider other strategies, such as devising a trust.