Bank Records for Estate Planning in 3 Easy Steps

Bank Records
Bank Records

Bank records for a “typical” estate plan can be as as simple as gathering statements.  But, the bank we use on a daily basis is hardly the problem.

Instead, it’s the checking account opened 20 years ago that people never use, that causes the biggest problems.

Luckily, I think most people can help their families in 3 easy steps.

Bank Records in 3 Easy Steps

I know the following steps are easy.  Certainly, I am not trying to insult your intelligence.  Unfortunately, very few people take time to straighten their affairs, which was the intent behind this article.

Anyways, here are the 3 easy steps I wish more people would engage:

3. Gather bank statements and place them in a folder housing important documents.  

2. Closing Unused Accounts

  1. Identifying a beneficiary for Pay on Death (“POD”)

Gathering Bank Statements

Because so many people are getting bank statements by e-mail, acquiring hard copies of records is very difficult.  In the probate process, there are 3 elements beneficiaries and personal representatives need from their deceased loved ones:

  • Name of bank
  • Account number, and
  • Routing number.

As you might suspect, obtaining a password and username to an e-mail account can become more cumbersome than obtaining bank records.  This is true because banks generally have phone numbers and people answering their phones.  On the other hand, e-mail services do not.

Thus, gather bank statements.

Closing Unused Accounts

Remember the bank account you opened to acquire a car loan?  Or, that bank account you opened when you lived in a different city?  Well, close them.  Right now…call the bank and take the initiative to close the account.

Here is the problem.  Family members can spend thousands of dollars on the probate process for an account holding peanuts.

Thus, make life easy on loved ones and close unused bank accounts.

Pay on Death (“POD”)

For smaller estates, I love the efficiency of identifying a beneficiaries and making the account pay on death.  Unfortunately, this still isn’t enough because PODs can go wrong.  Horribly wrong.

Ideally, I encourage families to fund their revocable trust with any and all bank accounts.  If this isn’t feasible, then using bank records to draft a proper POD beneficiary form is highly recommended.

I wish you and your family the very best.