Being named as executor of a deceased person's estate can be a difficult responsibility. There are many laws and court rulings which govern the probate process. While an executor will not assume direct control of the decedent's bank accounts, the probate court will grant her indirect access to the deceased person's accounts by allowing the creation of a checking account in the name of the estate.
Probate is the process by which an executor is appointed by the court, often as requested in the decedent's will, and all assets and liabilities in the estate are inventoried and dealt with as appropriate. Once the court has granted executor status to an individual, the assets are all accounted for, then any outstanding obligations or taxes are paid. Finally, the executor makes bequests to individuals or other entities as directed in the decedent's will.
Executor's Rights and Responsibilities
Once confirmed by the court, an executor has limited control over the decedent's assets, including indirect access to their checking account. Based on the authority given them by the court, he can either have the decedent's account re-named to the estate account, or simply create a new account in the name of the estate and have money transferred from the deceased person's account into the new account, from which he can write checks.
Limitations of Executor's Rights
The executor cannot transfer money from the decedent's checking account into her own, or make payments to themselves from the estate account. In many cases, the probate court must review and approve major transactions even after the executor is appointed. Once all the liabilities of the deceased have been settled and bequests made according to the specifications of the will, an executor must present a final accounting for review by the court and any other interested parties, which proves that the executor has fulfilled their responsibilities. If any portion of the will is contested, the executor's power to fulfill the wishes of the deceased may be over-ruled by a court decision.
Surviving Co-signer to Decedent's Joint Account
Joint accounts held by the deceased at the time of death are a special circumstance. If the deceased person had a joint checking account with another individual or entity which outlived the decedent, the funds usually pass to the co-signer and are not part of the estate. This can be contested by an interested party during the probate process along with most other details of the will and estate. However, an executor does not normally have access to those funds as part of the estate.