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Old 31 July 2010, 04:22 AM
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snopes snopes is online now
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Icon81 Joint accounts frozen when one person dies

Comment: My friend says that a widow friend of hers learned that all joint
bank accounts are frozen when a spouse dies so that you can't access the
money. She's changing all her accounts to "multiple" or "multi-party
accounts" and encourages me to put something like "Joint Accounts Not
Accessible" in our newsletter.

My banker says this isn't true. A joint account can be accessed at all
times by either party but that certain deposits like Social Security can
be frozen. Can you further illuminate?
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Old 31 July 2010, 05:21 AM
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MegansMom MegansMom is offline
Join Date: 13 January 2006
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It depends on whether your joint account is "joint tenancy" or "tenancy in common". With joint tenancy there is a right of surviorship, meaning if one party dies the remaining party (or parties) have rights to the entire account. This would not be frozen if one party dies. Tenants in common do not have rights of survivorship. If one party dies, his/her share goes to his/her heirs not necessarily the other party on the account. This could result in the account being frozen. Different states have different defaults for joint accounts. I knew all those years in banking would come in handy one day.
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Old 11 August 2010, 03:13 PM
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Frequently people run into this problem, not with Tenancy in Common situations but with single owner accounts with additional signatories. Tenancy in Common is in fact extremely uncommon these days, but the practice of adding caregivers to specific accounts belonging to an elderly or disabled person, as authorized signatories for the convenience it provides is common. While the account owner lives the caregiver can make withdrawals and write checks to pay for the owner's living expenses, but upon the death of the account owner the account would be frozen.
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Old 13 August 2010, 04:02 PM
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Ali Infree Ali Infree is offline
Join Date: 02 February 2007
Location: Wheeling, WV
Posts: 2,563

My father had a safe deposit box that contained, among other things, my parents' wills. I had him add me as a holder for the box. My understanding was that the box, which was solely in his name, would be frozen till after the will was finalized. Obviously this would have been a problem. This was helpful when he died fairly suddenly, and not more than a year later.
Their checking account was a joint account to which my mother had access after his death.

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Old 19 August 2010, 05:18 PM
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RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
Join Date: 14 November 2003
Location: Schenectady, NY
Posts: 1,371

It may differ by state, but in New York, a safe deposit box had only one owner; any additional names are "deputies." If the owner dies, the deputies cannot access the box without various officials being present to document what's in the box for the estate.

My ex-wife worked in a bank and every day they went over the obituaries to see if anyone there had a safe deposit box. If so, they would put a hold on it. She told me one time when the wife had showed up the day before the obit was published to clean out the box, obviously very distressed over something.
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