How to get funds out my deceased father-in-law bank account to get reimbursed for funeral arrangements?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 02, 2016
Hoosiermama asked...

My father in law passed away on Monday. My husband was power of attorney from Nov until the passing. There is NO will, NO property and NO life insurance. Essentially he has 1 checking account with approx. $1500 in it. My husband (mistakenly we are learning) went to the bank and notified them of the death before we made the funeral arrangements. We ended up with $1000 in costs (no service) and had to charge it on our personal credit card. We were told we will get the $1000 back from his account.

Our question? How? My husband is not on the account, he is not executioner, he was POA but now the account is marked that his father is deceased.

What forms do we fill out just to get back the $1000 we paid from his account?

As far as the excess, we know he will owe the nursing home much more then the measly $500 left over so we figure they will just take that.

Any help is appreciated!

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

You will likely be able to get all the help you need from an unexpected source: the local probate court.

The laws in every state set out a procedure for just the situation you describe: to clear up ownership of property left that after someone dies that has what's defined as a "small" amount"‚ÄĚranging from $5,000 to $100,000, depending on the state.

If no creditors or other beneficiaries step forward to stake a claim to your father-in-law's account, the money that remains will be passed to your husband who can then settle up the funeral charges. If representatives from the nursing home file a claim, it will likely need to be paid after that.

These procedures, called "simplified estate" or "affidavit estate administration" or something similar, require a little paperwork and perseverance, but are generally easy and fast. And most courts also provide instructions or ample advice to help walk people through the process.

Community Answers

Tiane answered...

I agree. My situation was similar except my mother's checking account was a joint account with me so it automaticcaly went to me, all $35, and I closed the account.

I want to emphasize you are NOT responsible for any bills, accounts, loans etc., that you did not co-sign or guarantee. The deceased person's estate is solely responsible for their debts. That's one job of the probate court, to name an administrator and provide oversight to make sure there's no fraud. Whoever is the administrator will also have to get the final federal and state income tax forms filed before the next regular tax filing due date (next April 15, 2012 for most individuals).

Most estate and probate lawyers will give a free consultation. I found one who did. I do plan to pay him a little something when I can because his advice was helpful, but that's my personal choice.

Ask your funeral home or crematory if they'll produce a memorial DVD in lieu of a service. It's a nice touch that can be shared - you just provide photos and music. Also, tell everyone in lieu of flowers to donate money to your funeral home - maybe that'll help reimburse the money you had to pay.

Sympathies and best wishes.