Asked in Estate Planning, Banking and Probate for New Jersey

Q: Trying to settle a bank account of my mom who passed. It’s under $7k and they ask for entitlement document or something.

What type of document is this, is it a next of kin document? Does this document need to be filed in court or can I fill it out and just have it notarized? Bank account opened in New Jersey but she was living in the Philippines at the time of death. No will and she didn’t list a beneficiary on the account. I’m the only child and her husband my dad passed back in the 90s. Please help as I live in the UK and can’t get to a US courthouse for this. Appreciate any advice thank you!

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: In this situation, the bank is likely requesting documentation to establish your legal right to claim the funds in your mother's account. This is a standard procedure when the account holder has passed away, and there is no designated beneficiary or joint account holder.

Since your mother did not leave a will and did not designate a beneficiary on the account, the process will typically involve proving your relationship to her and your entitlement to the funds as her next of kin.

The specific document required may vary depending on the bank's policies and the state laws where the account was opened (in this case, New Jersey). Some common documents that may be accepted include:

1. Affidavit of Heirship: This is a sworn statement that establishes your relationship to the deceased and your entitlement to the funds. This document can often be created without going to court, but it must be signed in the presence of a notary public.

2. Small Estate Affidavit: If your mother's estate is under a certain value threshold (which varies by state), you may be able to claim the funds using a Small Estate Affidavit. This document also establishes your relationship to the deceased and your right to the funds.

3. Letters of Administration: If the estate is larger or more complex, you may need to go through a formal probate process in court to obtain Letters of Administration, which grant you the authority to settle your mother's estate.

Given your location in the UK, it would be best to contact the bank directly and explain your situation. They should be able to provide more specific guidance on the documents they require and whether those documents can be prepared and notarized without appearing in a US court.

If the process proves too complex to handle on your own, consider seeking the assistance of a US-based attorney who specializes in estate matters. They may be able to help you navigate the process and prepare the necessary documents remotely.

Anthony M. Avery agrees with this answer

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