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Probate Jurisdiction on bank account with National bank

My parents opened a joint checking account with Bank of America when they were Maryland residents, but my father also had individual savings account without any beneficiaries listed on the account. My parents moved to Massachusetts in Aug'2009 and notified bank about move. Unfortunately, until his death (12/31/2010), My father was under impression that all accounts were joint account. According to bank, they are unable to disburse funds in savings account to my mom because it needs to be probated according to Maryland state law. According to Maryland state probate Attorneys that I consulted, it needs to be probated in Massachusetts because my father lived in Mass. at time of his death. Funds in the account are about $7000 and Massachusetts law does not require probate for amount less than $10000. My mother is currently unemployed and it will be very difficult for her to go through probate process in Maryland as she is Massachusetts resident.

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Submitted Mon, 06/06/2011 - 13:25

First, your parents became residents of Massachusetts in 2009. Therefore, any questions with regard to personal property such as a bank account will need to be resolved in accordance with Massachusetts law.
There are two relevant provisions of Massachusetts law. First, if your total probate assets have a date of death value of $15,000 or less, your mother would be eligible to use a streamlined proceeding called a "voluntary administration" to access that one bank account. You will need to complete one form, submit the form to the proper Probate Court, and at some point you will get the same form back, approved by the court. You can then take the “approved” form to Bank of America and the bank should allow your mother to close out that account. You should note that ALL Probate Courts in Massachusetts are significantly understaffed at this point, and so you should expect about a two month wait for even this simple process.
The other option is M.G.L. c. 167D, §33. This statute allows a bank to release small bank accounts (under $10,000) to the surviving spouse under certain circumstances. I have had mixed luck with the statutory provision - some banks are happy to rely on the statute, while others feel that they are better protected by the appointment of a personal representative through the Probate Court. Talk with the manager of your local branch to determine which approach will work for you in this situation. Good luck.
Attorney Peter Bernardin

Thank you very much for prompt reply.

I happened to obtain printout of bank's policy/Procedure Reference for Small Estate Administration, and this is what is says for Disbursement of funds limited to $10000 in Massachusetts:
"Claimant provides original small estate affidavit or completes the bank's form titled Certificate of Payment on behalf of Deceased-Depositor".

But, bank is refusing to accept any of these and has actually given me following in writing:
"The account was opened in Maryland and we must adhere to our requirements for accounts domiciled in Maryland. In order to close this account formal probate and appointment of personal representative is required."

I have made total of 5 to 6 trips to local bank and have made lots of calls to bank managers and toll-free numbers as well to explain this to them.

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