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Complications at Wells Fargo When a Bank Account Lacks a Beneficiary


Wells Fargo Bank

If your individual bank accounts don’t have beneficiaries listed, your heirs may have problems receiving funds from those accounts. This Yahoo article/video has an example in which a woman is trying to gain access to her deceased husband’s Wells Fargo savings account. Her husband designated her as a “payable on death” (POD) beneficiary on his Wells Fargo checking account, but not on his Wells Fargo savings account. Wells Fargo won’t let her access the account without “power of attorney” or “executor” papers. The woman said she called the probate court and was told a letter from the court would cost $250. It also said that when the bank account balance is under $500, it’s at the bank’s discretion on releasing the funds. Since the savings account balance is only $273, it’s not worth her money to pay the court and/or attorney fees.

This article reminds me of what happened to me in 2011 when Wells Fargo refused to give me access to my dad’s CD after he passed away. In my case, I had a document from Wells Fargo that showed me as the beneficiary. My dad was always careful to ensure he had all the account documentation. The problem in my case was that Wells Fargo claimed that it was the wrong document, and their systems showed that there was no beneficiary designated for this account. I told them that it was a Wells Fargo banker who provided my dad with the document.

I was in a similar situation as this woman in that I would have to pay at least $250 to my attorney to get the necessary court documents that Wells Fargo was requiring.

After I didn’t get any help from the Wells Fargo branch manager, I filed a complaint against Wells Fargo with the OCC. After the first submission of the complaint, I had to send three more letters to the OCC and Wells Fargo over about four months before Wells Fargo finally agreed to give me access to the account.

One thing to note about this issue is that counties and states have laws on how bank account funds can be released to the heirs, and they do differ. So it is important to check with your county and state on the laws.

It’s also the case that banks and credit unions have different rules. I experienced this with Navy Federal Credit Union. My dad also had a small savings account at Navy Federal Credit Union with only a $100 balance. He had joined so that I could become a member, but since there wasn’t a nearby Navy Fed branch, he never made a large deposit. The Navy Fed application at that time did not provide fields to designate a beneficiary. Consequently, no beneficiaries were listed on the account.

Initially, Navy Fed was requiring court papers for me to access this account. Since the attorney fee would easily exceed the account balance, I waited. After a few months Navy Fed mailed me a document that allowed me to claim the funds without any court papers. I was finally able to access my dad’s savings account funds without any cost.

As these cases show, it’s a good idea to double check the beneficiary listings on your bank accounts. Also, make sure the beneficiaries show up in the bank's system. It's a lot easier and less costly for your heirs when banks accounts have beneficiaries.

  Tags: Wells Fargo Bank

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Comment #1 by Anonymous posted on
You missed the most important point in POD accounts, IRS.

They have first lien attachment in any POD account and the bank must get clearance form IRS to release the funds. It happened to me at Chase bank, I had to wait 6 months before the bank got clear to release the funds to me. If you or the desist has not filed income tax for the previous year, you can not get to the money without IRS approval
Also, the bank’s rules and disclosures tramp any state laws, so make sure you know what is involved in PODs account if the sum is substantial.

Comment #2 by Anonymous posted on
#1 POD & IRS

Citation please.

Sure, it's the government that does as they please (including making it up as they go along), but POD specifically avoids probate and provides immediate ownership transfer. If there are insufficient funds to cover estate expenses, that is the executor's problem to deal with-- POD accounts are not estate assets.

There's no rule the Death Certificate must come from the executor. Once the bank is aware the owner is deceased they *must* transfer to beneficiary or the State-- they cannot keep pulling funds.

Comment #3 by Anonymous posted on

I work for a bank, yes there is a memo attached to all POD accounts that require IRS clearance to release the funds to the beneficiary. Estate is not mentioned anywhere. IRS is trying to make sure there are no back taxes due by the deceased or the beneficiary.

Comment #4 by Anonymous posted on
To #2, if the amount in the POD is a large amount and the deceased had not filed income tax for the last few years, it could be months, even a year before the beneficiary sees the money.
Internal revenue service has his paw on the money first, the bank is just obeying the rules.
My father left me over $150K, but I did not get it all because my father was bed ridden for 2 years and had not filed the taxes on time. My attorney had to amend his tax return for the last 3 years and then the money was sent to me via check of what ever was left, since my attorney took big chunk out of it.
Don’t assume the money in the POD are yours, until you have them in your hand.

Comment #5 by HOODY (anonymous) posted on
Hmmm maybe just a "joint" MMA would be better than when you think time is running out, maybe cash in the CD at the last opertunity and put it in that.


Comment #6 by HOODY (anonymous) posted on

Comment #7 by Anonymous posted on
hay hoody welcome back i moved  to virginia beach last june

Comment #8 by Hoody (anonymous) posted on

OK, I hope you like it there, I haven't been back there in years. I assume they got the crime problem down the area.

I try not to post much here anymore, just read stuff.


Comment #9 by Anonymous posted on
just had a major bro haha on the ocean front due to college week what a mess as i tell people it is interesting when asked  did you ever sell your house ? as i recall you were trying to get a buck 25 for it ?

Comment #10 by HOODY (anonymous) posted on
I figured as much, have no time for that stuff in my life anymore.

? never said I was selling my house, lol, I will most likely kick off in it and let the state have the ****ed thing. Was looking at a mobile home park near here, but my real estate tax on the house is a  better deal than lot fee, and apartments are crazy at 600 to 800 just a 1 bedroom. So I'll keep the small house and pay my 1400 a year reale state tax bill :)

were way off topic so may as well cut it short before we catch hell lol L8R


Comment #13 by Anonymous posted on
and keep in mind that if there is any credit card or mortgages due the BANK  from the decedant,

the bank will have its "Right of Offset" to collect from the funds on file with them.!