My Brother, a Missionary in Brazil, died there without a will, on our Labor Day 2015. I am his Brother, the registered Life Insurance beneficiary. I am a long-time resident of Georgia, but his bank account, where Churches deposited donations, is over in Alabama. I went to his Alabama bank, but they said that I needed a Court Order to access that one account.
Question- Can I obtain a Georgia court order here, where I am well known or do I have to travel back to Alabama and request one? Unpaid question !! Thanks
2 Answers from Attorneys
Where you are "well known" is of no significance at all. Your brother's estate has to be properly handled, and that might start with his residence in the US, if established. A call to an estate lawyer in your area might be the best place to start, and they might refer you to a lawyer in another area if appropriate.
I agree with Attorney Riddle. It does not matter how famous or infamous you are. This is not about you. Life insurance proceeds are not a probate asset so if you are the named designated beneficiary, you only need to file a claim with the insurer in order to receive your benefits.
However, bank accounts are a separate matter. Unless there was a POD/TOD (payable on death or transfer on death designation) or unless you were a joint bank account holder, you cannot just access the Alabama bank account belonging to your brother. You may not need to actually go to Alabama, however. If its a big bank with branches in Georgia (Bandk of America, Wells Fargo, PNC, Sun Trust, Regions are all examples of big multi-state banks) then you might only need to go to a branch of the bank located where you are at.
The problem is again that this is not about you. While your brother was a missionary in Brazil, where was his legal residence? Was he a citizen of the US and if so, in what state? Where did he have property? Where did he vote? That would be his place of legal residence and it is there that an estate would have to be probated. If there are no assets other than the bank account, some states have a process whereby once the administrator is appointed, he can send an affidavit of collection to places like banks. Banks will then release the funds to the duly appointed personal representative (administrator) for the estate. The administrator can then disburse the funds as per the intestacy laws of the state where the estate is probated, after any claims are paid.