My Aunt just passed away and we have a copy of her will. I am the executrix. I don't have the death certificate yet but I am concerned about her assets because relatives are already coming from other states to take things. She has a bank account with her name AND her sister's name, but her sister is not listed in the will to receive any cash. Her sister thinks it's hers if her name is on the account. We can't start probate until we get a death certificate. What can I do as executor to freeze the bank account so I protect the deceased's assets? Also is it ok to let my aunt's sister take items willed to her before probate such as household items? I'm mainly concerned about her bank account though. Help!
1 Answer from Attorneys
If the bank account was a joint account or POD account, then her sister is automatically the sole owner of any funds in that account at the moment of your Aunt's death. Those assets pass as an automatic operation of law and do not go through probate. Even if the will specified the funds in that account were to be distributed differently, those instructions would be invalid. Other assets should not be distributed until bills of the estate are paid, any taxes due are paid, and the personal representative has permission from the probate court to distribute the remainder. The will may nominate you as the executrix, but only the probate court can appoint you to that position; in Nebraska you would be named the personal representative of the estate. Usually, the probate court will follow the nomination in the will.