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Complications at Wells Fargo When a Bank Account Lacks a Beneficiary


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.

Related Pages: Wells Fargo Bank

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  |     |   Comment #1
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
#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

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
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 #32
Are you an attorney?
  |     |   Comment #5
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
  |     |   Comment #7
hay hoody welcome back i moved  to virginia beach last june
  |     |   Comment #8

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

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

  |     |   Comment #9
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
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
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.!
  |     |   Comment #14
5 months trying to get deceased father's iras and I am the beneficiary on all 3 iras this bank is a discrase
  |     |   Comment #15
Our father died 15 days ago. He had a will made out stating that his funeral is to be paid from his savings account. My brother convinced my dad to put it under his name so also my dad has two savings account and wasn't specific on which account to pay his funeral so my brother is money hungry and refuses to use the money to pay for funeral. We are six siblings and brother is keeping the money for himself . He revoked the will and the bank states that my brother can have the money for what ever wants. What can we do?
  |     |   Comment #16
I don't understand,

 He revoked the will and the bank states that my brother can have the money for what ever he wants.

The brother can't revoke another's will.  If a person with mental capacity and had an account that was transferred before death to the son, then there was a gift and the so owns it.  You state there is another account...presumably in the name of the father.  The account "language" will control as to who "gets it after death," that will control OVER the will language...if no account language, then part of the estate and the will controls. Thus, with only one account in the father's name then that is the account for funeral expenses...but given timing one will need to advance the funds and look later to recoup from the estate.  May want to talk to an attorney if a lot of dollars involved OR go to local legal aide for assistance/advice.
  |     |   Comment #17
Can some one leave you numbers and it might have your name but it might be a sercerty numbers to acasss that account
  |     |   Comment #18
And provide a death cert and "you" were listed on the account...should work
  |     |   Comment #22
I'm going to print this out for my elderly mother who has a savings account at WF and no beneficiary to date. I knew she needed one.
  |     |   Comment #23
Whether or not there's a designated beneficiary when a family member dies, Their financial holdings (no bills owed) Should be released to The next of kin. Any other type of altering financial rules, " IS THEFT "
  |     |   Comment #24
Not necessarily. With no designated beneficiary, the deceased's financial holdings all become part of his/her estate and the designated or court appointed executor takes charge (not possession). That is why a Will is so important.
Judy Storm
  |     |   Comment #28
Wells Fargo will not even allow the court appointed executor to take charge.
  |     |   Comment #26
Seems funny that one of my Dad's beneficiaries has closed out his account, even though he never listed any beneficiaries.
S/D box is still active, but bank refuses access still, even after 5 yrs.
Also a little wierd, is why did this one ben wait until 5 yrs passed, now (Dad's wife is also gone now) to cash out this account?
Judy Storm
  |     |   Comment #27
Wells Fargo will not honor the Letters Testamentary issued and signed by the local district court appointing me executor. Stay away from Wells Fargo, they deserve their bad reputation!
  |     |   Comment #29
Notice a show cause motion to subpoena the CEO and answer why s/he shouldn't honor the earlier order or be ordered to jail for contempt! Get an aggressive attorney. District courts are normally federal are "you" sure you are in the right court?
  |     |   Comment #30
When a spouse passes away, there should only be one ( surviving ) spouse, left, named on the account (s). The concept of banks determining the right of access to a deceased spouse 's financial account, is not only obsolete in the retrospect that most states nowadays forbid spouses from opening individual bank accounts, exclusively of one another, but also and especially unconscionable to conceive in all other states under the governance of community property laws. In contrast, when an individual passes away, no one should have access to that person's bank accounts, as nobody possesses the authority or jurisdiction to grant such action, but one that is united to the deceased until death torn them apart, hence the concept of surviving spouse, from which it came along.
  |     |   Comment #31
The "naming-your-beneficiary" concept to transfer money after death is definitely an original bank policy, since any bank employee could secretly add "names", on customers' bank accounts, "at the right moment". On the other hand, I don't see how anyone could fake a marriage, or the existence of a registered domestic partnership, which legally attribute rights of survivorship.
  |     |   Comment #33
Please understand l need your dept to contact
me because my dilemma reality of death and work as if l didn’t realize death alert on the statement please forgive let’s talk about streaming income that lam attach to me .God bless let’s put this behind us. Greed is real we have continue over look this see the after math profit.
  |     |   Comment #35
I propose let's all withdraw all our deposits for 2 days challenge!!! At every bank!!! I would love for all of you to see who really own everything including your and mine ****!!!
  |     |   Comment #36
I have a question- if one child (legal adult) is named on a POD account of a parent as the beneficiary, does that child have to sign any paperwork to being named on a checking account as the POD beneficiary? Just curious if child would be surprised after parent's death and genuinely could not know this was designated, or if they would have had to sign some type of signature card when designated and checks were printed. This is specific to Wells Fargo...
  |     |   Comment #37
We had our daughter put on checking accounts and safe deposit boxes…told her if she touches our money I’ll…. We have deposit keys and she has used them on occasion for access…under my direct supervision. :) We don’t use Wells for obvious reasons

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