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  Home >> Special Situations >> Deceased Individuals  
Bank Refuses Executor Access to Account

My mother named me power of attorney before she passed and named me executor of her Will and sole inheritor of all her estate. I just received the Death Certificate today and called the bank to balance the account and set an appointment, only to find out that her account has been frozen. The bank said they were informed of my mother's death at 8:00 am this morning, and their policy is to freeze accounts of the deceased. They would not open it to me even when I showed the Will, POA and Death Certificate. They won't tell me who notified them and SS told me they didn't call them. Can they do this? What can I do about it? The manager mentioned a letter of testament per their legal department. The Will is clear. My mother is current on her mortgage payment with BofA, but has a balance of 64K. She is also current on all debts. Don't they have to tell me who caused the freeze?


The law doesn't make things easy at difficult times like these, but here's what's happened. First, your mother's power of attorney cannot be effective after her death. Your authority to act as her attorney-in-fact under the power of attorney is gone.

Secondly, the fact that your mother named you in her Will to be the executor of her estate does not give you any legal standing. To actually act as the executor, you have to take the Will and your mother's Death Certificate to the probate court of the county in which she last resided and get an appointment as executor. Think of the mention in the Will as a nomination that the court has to take seriously, but the court still has to be satisfied with your credentials before approving the appointment. In many states, that appointment from the court is referred to as "Letters Testamentary," and that's likely the document to which the bank's legal department was referring.

Published on 12/15/10