When the owner of a bank account dies and that account holder did not have a Last Will and Testament, there are a few possible scenarios that can occur. If the account holder was the sole owner of the account and did not have any beneficiary or did not have the account “in trust for” another or “payable or death”, then the account will have to be administered through the decedent’s estate.
In the case of someone who died intestate (without a will), that means the bank account will have to go through an administration proceeding and be administered by the fiduciary known as the administrator. The beneficiaries under the laws of intestacy would be the statutory distributees or next of kin. If you have specific people you want named as a beneficiary to your estate, it is best to have a Will.
If your account is held jointly with another, then when you pass away, regardless of whether you have a will, the joint account will pass to the surviving joint account holder by operation of law (assuming owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship). Likewise, if an account has a named beneficiary or is held ITF for a beneficiary or POD, then it passes to the beneficiary by operation of law. In both the joint account or ITF/POD scenarios, both situations qualify as testamentary substitutes, meaning these accounts pass outside the estate regardless of whether there was a Will.