Legal Blog

The Weekly Scenario: Options for Paying Bills After a Parent’s Death

Question: My father is losing his mental faculties. I have access to his banking account online and I pay his bills for him. Can I continue paying them after his death? My name is not on his checking account. If he adds my name to his checking account, can I continue paying his bills? Answer:If your name is added to the bank account, then yes, you can pay the bills as you would be a co-owner of the account and have full access to the account. After the death of your father, you would be the sole owner of the account. If your name is not added to the bank account, then you (or whoever is named as the Personal Representative of his estate) should open a probate estate with the county so that bills can be paid from the estate. Once a person dies, the right to act under a Power of Attorney ceases (along with the right to access one’s bank account if the account is in such decedent’s sole name). In such case, only the Personal Representative of the estate would have access to the account once the estate is opened.

Comment: Adding a child to a parent’s bank account can certainly be helpful to give the child access to the account if the parent were to become disabled or as noted above, after the parent’s death. However, such a move can have negative consequences and might be ill advised depending on other circumstances. For example, if the child has creditor issues, it would generally not be advisable to add the child as a joint owner on the parent’s bank account.

If you have any questions or would like more information please contact Steve Shane at: | 301.575.0313.

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Steve Shane Head Shot for webSteve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts and charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.

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