How to Keep a Deceased Person's Bank Account From Going to the State

When a loved one dies, her bank account is frozen until the bank receives notification of how the account funds are to be handled. If no one lays claim to the funds, the money is allocated to the state treasurer's office. If your name is on the bank account as a joint account holder, you automatically have access to the deceased's funds. If you are not a joint account holder, you must go through a legal process to assume ownership of the account.

Locate the will or living trust of the deceased person to determine whether you are listed as the executor or trustee for his estate. Consult with a probate attorney if you are not listed as an executor or trustee, or if no will or living trust exists.

Obtain a copy of the deceased's death certificate. A copy of the death certificate can be obtained from the funeral home or the hospital where the individual was pronounced dead.

Take the will and death certificate to the probate court of the county in which the deceased's bank account is located.

If there is no will, request that the court issue a letter of testamentary, a document naming you as the executor or administrator of the deceased person's estate. If you have a living trust, there is no need to visit probate court because a letter of testamentary is not required.

Take the death certificate, will or living trust, letter of testamentary and photo identification to the bank of the deceased. Advise the banking representative that you are the executor of the deceased's estate and you wish to withdraw funds and close out the bank account. Wait for the bank representative to grant you access to the deceased's account.