Do we need to open probate to deal with bank account and paycheck?

September 24, 2017 bscott

Question: My spouse just passed away. I need to access money from the bank accounts to pay bills and funeral expenses. Can I access the accounts now, or do I have to wait for a succession to be finished in order to get access to the funds?

Answer: Fortunately, Louisiana law provides a few quick, non-judicial, ways to access funds in bank accounts after the death of a parent or spouse. These procedures are useful in order to obtain immediate access to funds held on deposit in the event money is needed to pay bills or funeral expenses immediately following the death of a loved one.

Up to $5,000.00 can be withdrawn from a decedent’s bank accounts by the surviving spouse and heirs if the person died without a Last Will and Testament. In order to be permitted to make the withdrawal, the spouse and the heirs must provide the bank with an affidavit establishing jurisdiction and relationship, and stating that the decedent left no will. Most banks have a form affidavit that is available at the bank branch for completion of this process. The law allowing this procedure is found at Louisiana Revised Statute 6:315.1.

In addition to the above, there is also a second procedure that is available only to a surviving spouse that allows the surviving spouse to withdraw up to $10,000.00 from an account in the name of the deceased spouse or an account held jointly in the name of the spouses. In order to be permitted to make such withdrawal, the surviving spouse must provide the bank an affidavit stating that the total funds withdrawn from all bank accounts under this procedure has not exceeded $10,000.00. This procedure can be used even when the person dies with a Last Will and Testament. The law allowing this procedure is found at Louisiana Revised Statute 9:1513. Again, check with your bank and they can usually provide you with a copy of the necessary affidavit to complete this procedure.

As a related issue, the surviving spouse and children can also directly receive payment of up to $6,000.00 in wages from a deceased’s employer after death. In order to receive such payment, an affidavit must be provided to the employer stating the name, address, date and place of death of the deceased employee, the relationship of the person requesting payment to said employee, the name and address of the surviving spouse, or children, if any, of said deceased employee and such other information as the employer may require. The law allowing this procedure is found at Louisiana Revised Statute 9:1515.