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Status of Joint Account after Death

My mother changed her checking account to a joint account with my cousin a few years ago when she was diagnosed with cancer. My mom passed away last year, but my cousin hasn't notified the bank of her death and is still receiving my mom's pension through direct deposit. I do not believe that my cousin is the beneficiary. Is she supposed to notify the bank of mother's passing or can she keep it joint for as long as she wishes?


It's unusual, although not unheard of, for a bank not to have heard of the death of a depositor for such a long time. It's reasonable to assume that, had the bank learned of her death, it would have changed its records to show your cousin as the sole owner of the account. In fact, the bank might have closed the account completely, requiring your cousin to start another account.

It's likely that, if the party issuing your mother's pension checks learns of your mother's death, it will seek to determine where its funds have gone. They will ultimately be led to your cousin, and will likely take action to recover any money to which your cousin was not entitled. In some cases, criminal fraud charges can be brought.

Consider talking to your cousin about the account and the pension money, in the hope that your cousin will do the right thing. If nothing happens, decide whether you want to pursue the matter further with the company that issues the pension checks.

Published on 5/01/08