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How the court decides who gets the money left in savings account when a family member passes

how the court decides who gets the money after family member diesMoney remaining in a savings account may or may not come under the purview of the Surrogate’s Court in the event that an account holder dies. Say for example Person A and Person B have a joint savings account with Bank X. If Person A dies, then Person B automatically is entitled to the full account as surviving joint tenant. This is what is known by title to an account passing by “operation of law”. Such an account would not fall under the jurisdiction of the Surrogate’s Court and would pass outside any probate or administration proceeding.

If Person A is the sole account holder of a savings account at Bank X and they die, but they name a beneficiary, that account would pass outside of jurisdiction of the Surrogate’s Court (in most instances) and would not be subject to an administration or probate proceeding. In this scenario and the one presented above with the joint account holders, proof of death (certified death certificate) would need to be presented to the bank before any change in ownership would occur.

The third scenario occurs when Person A dies as the sole account holder and they do not leave a named beneficiary. In this instance, the beneficiary of this account would be the Estate of Person A. Consequently, a probate proceeding (if Person A died with a Will) or an administration proceeding (if person died “intestate”, or without a Will) would need to occur to determine how the proceeds from the savings account would be disbursed. Either the proceeds from the account would be distributed according to the terms set forth in the Will or according to the laws of intestacy (by next of kin).

Should you require the services of a Long Island Estate Lawyer, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Michael W. Alpert at (631) 225-4603 or email at