Miami-Dade Senator Proposes Informal Process for Inheriting Bank Accounts Under $10,000
Florida law currently provides a number of ways to help you distribute your assets upon death without the need for formal probate. For example, you can open a joint checking account with your spouse or child, which ensures that the surviving account holder automatically inherits all of the funds (unless you provide otherwise). Alternatively, you can designate an account as “payable on death,” meaning that ownership passes to a named beneficiary, who otherwise has no rights to the money while you are still alive.
SB 892 Would Allow Bank Account Transfers by Affidavit
A Florida state senator recently proposed yet another option for passing smaller bank accounts to heirs without going through probate. On November 14 René García, a Republican legislator from Miami-Dade County, introduced Senate Bill 892. The bill is entitled, “An act relating to financial institution payments to surviving successors.”
SB 892 would add a new section to the Florida Statutes. Specifically, it provides that a bank or other financial institution may pay the balance of a deceased person’s account to a “surviving successor” without the need for “any court proceedings, order, or judgment authorizing the payment.” In other words, the surviving successor would not need to open a Florida probate estate and obtain judicial appointment as the deceased account holder’s personal representative in order to access the funds contained in the account.
This legislation, however, would only apply to accounts where the outstanding balance is less than $10,000. And the definition of “surviving successor” is limited to certain family members. If the decedent was married at the time of his or her death, the surviving spouse would be considered the surviving successor. If there was no spouse, then “any adult child of the decedent” would qualify. If the decedent was unmarried and had no adult children, then the “mother or father of the decedent” would be the surviving successor.
As spelled out by SB 892, whoever qualifies as the surviving successor could go to the financial institution holding the funds and present a copy of the decedent’s death certificate together with an affidavit containing the following information:
- A statement asserting the person filing the affidavit is in fact the lawful surviving successor, according to the order described above;
- The date the decedent passed away and his or her last known residential address;
- A statement affirming there is less than $10,000 in the relevant account;
- A statement indemnifying and releasing the financial institution from any further legal liability associated with the account.
If a person improperly claims to be a surviving successor, he or she would be personally liable under SB 892 to the estate of the decedent or the individuals who are the lawful beneficiary of the disputed funds.
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It is important to note SB 892 is simply proposed legislation. The Florida Legislature will reconvene in January 2018 to consider Sen. García’s bill along with several hundred additional proposals for new laws. But if adopted, SB 892 would provide yet another useful estate administration tool for Florida residents and their families.