What If an Account Has No Named Beneficiary?

When you have left the estate of someone who has passed away, you have a lot of things to think about. You probably are not aware that you might run into issues with accounts that you do not have access to. This is a very common issue that can crop up when an estate is handed off to a beneficiary, and it can cause all kinds of issues for the people who have survived the decedent. There is a set process that is completed when an account has no assigned beneficiary, and you should be aware of what this process is if you think that you might be dealing with accounts that you are not the named beneficiary on.

What Happens When An Account Does Not Have A Named Beneficiary?

The process that happens when someone leaves an account that has no named beneficiary when they die is that the assets go into the estate. If there is a will, the assets in the banking account can pass to the beneficiaries in the will after probate is over. This can be less clear when there is no will, no trust, and no provision for who owns the account besides the decedent.

When the ownership of an account has not been made clear, intestacy laws will come into play. These laws describe who will inherit in the absence of a will or a named beneficiary. In Pennsylvania, these laws state that if a spouse survives the decedent, they will receive the assets that the decedent has left behind. If there are surviving children, they are included in the consideration or they might take precedence if there is no spouse to inherit. There are also provisions for increasingly distant family members as needed. The accounts that did not have an assigned beneficiary will still have to go through probate, but they will be released to next of kin in this order.

Under Pennsylvania law, this is the order that estate is passed on to surviving family:

  • Spouse
  • Children of the decedent
  • Parents if there are no children of the decedent. The decedent’s parents will share the estate equally in this case
  • Brother, sister, or their children
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles, aunts, and their children and grandchildren
  • Commonwealth – in this option, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the one that collects on the estate

There are many complexities that can impact the process of handing off the proceeds of an estate and all of its assets. The law also covers sharing of the assets and monies among surviving family if there is no will or trust in place to say who should be left with which items and which funds. This is almost never a simple process, and in some cases, the ownership of the accounts in question can be further complicated by intestacy laws.

You will also need to remember that unpaid debts, unpaid taxes, and inheritance tax will have to be taken from the estate as well. This can all add up, and in some cases, these debts and charges consume what remains of the estate once it has gone through probate.

How Long Does Probate Take?

Probate can take quite a long time in PA. This is partially due to the inheritance tax laws that are in place to tax all the various parts of the estate assets that have been left to beneficiaries of the estate. The process can take anywhere from 9-18 months! This can be a tough waiting period if you have bills to pay related to your loved one passing away or if you do not have access to bank accounts that you need to be able to attend to issues with the estate.

You will want to be sure that you have the support of a skilled lawyer if you are going to have to navigate the probate process as well as accounts that have no named beneficiary. You will have much better luck with this entire process with skilled support on your side. This kind of legal advice and help can make the probate process and the account ownership issues much easier to resolve.

At Antanavage Farbiarz, we can offer expert estate planning services for various kinds of estate planning needs. Our team of Lawyers can explain all aspects of the estate planning process and work with you on various kinds of estate planning. We can also offer expert guidance on making donations through wills, trusts, gifts, and other methods as well. If you are ready to discuss your will and estate planning concerns, call us at (610) 562-2000 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment.

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