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Her account is incurring fees due to low balance and I'd like to stop that. I have POA and am executor of her estate, though I haven't started any probate process yet since I don't have copy of death certificate. Just not sure if bank will refuse to close account since probate isn't even started.

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I work at a credit union/bank for 30+years, if you are a joint account holder with right of survivorship, you are able to withdraw the funds or write checks from othe account until the account becomes zero. Please check with the bank to see if there is a min balance to keep or monthly service charge, if so, I would advise to withdraw the full amount and deposit into your own individual account.
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On the advice of my bank, I kept my mother's checking account open for probably a year. It was 6 to 8 months before all activity stopped.
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Thank you all for your comments. So very helpful.
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CalifMarie I am very sorry to Learn Your Dear Mom passed away, RIP.
You will kneed a death Certificate + a copy of Your Mom's will.
This is a very tough time for You, as so Many Caregivers on this wonderful site know the pain of great loss.
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Check with your bank - ask for fees to be waived. My bank has done this as I move to new accounts in name of trust from individual accounts. It would be for limited time - 3-6 months but it saves a few bucks. Of course it depends on bank.
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CORRECTION**Social Security now always pays one month behind just in case someone dies. I specifically asked this question to social security last year and as "Representative Payee" I can do anything with his direct deposit from them and then justify how I spent it at year's end with a form letter from them. Military pensions are different though.
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There is no reason you do not have the death certificates yet. I got my Husbands 1 week after he passed.
You also need to inform Social Security. You can not close an account that her check was going into since they may have to retrieve a check that has been deposited after her death. They need to be informed ASAP.

I am sure when you go to the bank you could get them to reverse fees if you ask and explain the circumstances.
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As POA and your name is on the account(s), you could close them. Just explain to your bank rep what you are doing since you haven't gotten the death certificate yet. Your funeral home should have a copy of that, get it from them. I am sorry for your loss...
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If you are not making any progress via the Funeral Home call the town/county where the death occurred - death certificates are generally available within days - ours was in the hands of Social Security (thanks to our Funeral Home/County) with 5 days - my mother had a letter back from SSA in under 10 days after my dad's passing.
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My dad lives in Crossville, TN. It took forever(!) to get his wife's death certificate. It was at least a month & dad called every week. I guess it just depends on where you live.
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Rainmom is right, estate and gift taxes are widely misunderstood. Estate tax is a federal tax and applies only to estates that exceed the $5.43 million level. This amount is indexed for inflation, so goes up a bit each year. Any gifts reported that exceed the annual per person gifting allowance ($14,000 this year) are added to the final estate figures to determine estate tax. So, if a person has reported excess gifts of $2 million during his lifetime, and then leaves an estate valued at less than $3.43 million in 2016, there is no estate tax. It actually makes sense because it prevents wealthy people from avoiding estate tax by gifting before death, but allows less wealthy folks to gift during their lifetime without penalty.

Inheritance tax is usually a county tax and is levied in only a few states. Several states have eliminated the inheritance tax in the last several years. Rather than being paid by the estate, this tax is levied on the beneficiaries at a rate determined by each state. Even if the beneficiary lives in a state without an inheritance tax, he or she must still pay this tax if the deceased lived in a state with the tax. As a practical matter, the executor usually calculates this tax and pays it to the county out of estate funds to save the hassle of assessing it to each beneficiary. In my state, there are multiple "classes" of beneficiaries depending on the relationship to the deceased. Each class has an exempt amount and a tax rate on the excess. For example, a direct descendent (child, grandchild) gets a $40,000 exemption and the excess is taxed at 1%, while a non-related person gets a $10,000 exemption with a tax rate of 13% on the excess. Far more people get hit with inheritance tax than with the estate tax.

Detailed information on the estate and gift tax can be found on the irs website, and state revenue web sites usually have information about inheritance tax in the states that have this tax.
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Death certificates were available at my city clerk's office in 3 days. Check there.
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I don't know how so much erroneous information got out there regarding both gift and inheritance taxes. Yes, there are a few states that have some taxes in these situations - and the odd little county taxes like FreqFlyer mentioned. But the vast majority don't. "Death tax" is usually for estates over one million and then it is the amount over the million that is taxed and it's usually paid by the estate. Gift taxes are virtually non-existent unless you've exceeded the five million amount. Still, I regularly hear people worried about these two taxes when they shouldn't. Taxes like these are for the Bill Gates and Warren Buffets of the world. That said - it's always a good idea to consult a local tax accountant when estate planning or gifting a large sum of money - in case you're living in one of the very few areas that have taxes for these categories. But largely- most of us common folk have nothing to fret about.
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It is a good idea to check with your County probate office to see about inheritance tax, or call the parent's Elder Law Attorney if they have one. I live in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and there is no inheritance tax... did a happy dance. But my County will collect a tax depending on the inventory, I think it is around 1% so no big deal.

Rainmom is right about the Federal inheritance tax being $5.43 million. That usually affects the top 2% of the wealthy people.
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Just looked it up - you have to give away an accumulated $5.43 million before you would exceed the "lifetime limit" amount and be taxed.
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JessieBelle - check into the gift tax laws for your state - but in the vast majority of states gift tax is not paid until you reach some enormous total amount gifted - last time I checked it was well over a million dollars. Even then it's usually not paid until death in the final estate filing. The IRS requires that you file a gift return if you give a single person a gift over the IRS allowed yearly amount - which was around $14,000 last time I checked but you do not have to pay any tax on it at that time - or most likely- ever. I suspose it's their way of keeping a running total - lol! My accountant recommended I have my brothers sign a statement saying they acknowledge the money I gave them was the sole property of my mother - that the money was given in keeping with her will and that it was in no way a gift from me. So, that's what I did. However, I've been thinking about just filing gift returns for the money just to be on the safe side - since I won't every have to pay any taxes on it as I can't see gifting over a million dollars in my lifetime- I've really got nothing to loose except what I'll have to pay the accountant who does my taxes to do the forms - which shouldn't be much - it's a pretty simple form. Anyhoo - don't let the gift tax thing scare you off - check it out on line. I think gift tax and inheritance tax have to be two of the most commonly misunderstood things on the planet.
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Rainmom, I had considered doing my mother's money the same way if I outlive her. I am on her checking and savings account. The thing I worried about is if I divided up the money according to her will, would there be a gift tax. It would be a bit like me giving it to them. That idea has left me wondering what to do. I wouldn't want to pay all my money making up for gift taxes to siblings.
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It took three weeks for me to get my moms death certificate. In Oregon it had to be signed by the attending hospice doctor and it had gotten lost somewhere along the line. The worst part was they still hadn't cremated mom as they needed the doctor to sign off on it first - by way of the certificate. I finally got the funeral home to pursue it a little more aggressively when it was five days before we were to have our small memorial and scatter the ashes and still no ashes. Ugh - the whole thing was gruesome and disturbing. Finally some special circumstances type thing got pushed through and I was able to pick mom up two days before the memorial. Still didn't have the certs in hand until three full weeks after moms death. In my dad's case - about five days.
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Marie, perhaps California is different in their method of processing death certificates, but it does seem like a long time to wait to get them.

When my mother and then my sister died, the death certificates were obtained by the funeral home and I had them very quickly; I don't recall if it was before the funeral or the week of it, but I didn't wait at all.

Was this something the funeral home promised to do as a part of handling the funeral?
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My situation is similar to AmyGraces. My mom had a checking account and a savings account that I was listed as a joint account holder - we did this to ease my DPOA duties - paying bills, transferring money etc. Mom passed away Aug 30th. When I got the death certificates I took them to the bank and as the accounts had survivorship rights the accounts were transferred to my name only - they did not need to go through probate. I closed the savings account in three cashiers checks, dividing the money equally among me and my brothers in accordance with my moms wishes. I am keeping the checking account open and have been paying all of moms expenses- from cremation to accountant fees for taxes from this account. While I am carefully documenting my expenditures it's more for my brothers than anything else - and this will also make my final accounting of probate expenses easier as I will not have to report any of the bills and payments not related to the account that is being probated - to the court - as technically I'm paying with my own money and not the estates funds. We are only having to probate one large account as everything else had listed specific beneficiaries- so as no money is being used from that single account, things ought to go pretty fast and simply. Once everything is finished, whatever is left in the checking account I will split evenly with my brothers. Hope that made sense. I did run this all by both the attorney and my accountant and they said it all is perfectly legal- in Oregon, at least.
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My sister and I (and mother) had our names added to her savings and checking accounts. She had a few funds and some money in another account in a trust. When she passed, the funds and money in the trust went directly to us because it didn't have to go through probate. Since the other accounts were in both our names with survivorship, I simply closed them and followed her will for bequests to grandchildren and my sister and split the rest. She passed in March, but I kept the checking account open with about $3000 in it, just in case some unexpected bill comes up. I'll close it after we file her taxes in 2017. Our advisor told us we were fine to do it this way.
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The big question is if you are joint on the account or if you are only someone authorized to write checks. I see no problem with writing checks to pay her bills since you are on the account and are executor. Her bills do need to be paid.
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Probate is so complex that hardly any of us have any idea what we can and cannot do until we meet with the probate office.

If you are writing checks from your account or a joint account, make sure you keep all invoices for any payments you made for bills for your Mom, including funeral expenses. Keep those bills in a separate folder or 3-ring binder. Probate will ask for what bills were paid after the fact. Eventually you can be reimbursed from Mom's estate. Since you are the Executor, you would be paying yourself.
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I was told it would be several weeks before I received the death certificates. Still waiting....but I will call the funeral home to follow-up. THe account isn't frozen yet. I have continued writing checks from this account to pay her utility bills, property taxes, gardener, etc. Hopefully that's OK. Not sure what else to do since the bills needed to get paid and I can't start probate process until I get the death certificate.
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Marie, my heartfelt sympathy to you and your family for the passing of your Mom.

I wouldn't touch any accounts until you start Probate with the Circuit Court. I just started on that journey yesterday and yikes all the paperwork involved. I have my Dad's Elder Law Attorney doing most of the work for me, as this is too mind blogging for me right now.

I am surprised the funeral home hasn't given you copies of the Death Certificate. I got my parents within 3 days of seeing the funeral director to start that funeral process, in each case. Give the funeral home a call.

Regarding Power of Attorney, you can go ahead and file that document away, as it stopped being active the minute your Mom had passed.
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If it is a joint account with survivorship rights you can put the accounts in your name and then close them. You will need a death certificate to do this.
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You will need the death certificate and Will to do anything with accounts unless your are listed as co-owner of the accounts. The accounts are probably frozen if they are only in her name and you are only a signer.
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