{ Banner Image }

Legal-Ease: What Happens to a Family Member's Bank Account After Death?

Talking to Bank Manager about AccountDear Jonathan: My father, a widower, passed away a couple of months ago. Being his only child, he appointed me as his agent on his durable power of attorney so that I can handle his bill paying which I have been doing for the past two years.

After his death I went to the bank to transfer the remaining funds in that account to my own account; but the bank manager said the account was frozen due to my father’s death. I told him that I was my dad’s agent, that I had been accessing the account successfully for over two years and gave him a copy of the durable power of attorney. He said none of that mattered anymore since my father had died. Is that true? If so, how am I supposed to get the money out of my dad’s bank account?

Jonathan: The bank manager is correct in that a durable power of attorney is only effective and only has legal validity, while the principal is still living. This is because the purpose of a durable power of attorney is to allow the named agent to act on behalf of an incapacitated principal during the principal’s lifetime regarding his or her financial matters, including bill paying. This is exactly what you were doing on behalf of your father. Once your father passed away, however, his durable power of attorney automatically became null and void and as a result, your powers as agent, became null and void as well.

Regarding the bank account, since the bank manager stated it is now frozen, I can only assume that there isn’t a beneficiary named to receive the funds in that account upon your father’s death. Consequently, it appears that some type of probate proceeding will need to be initiated to gain access to that account. I recommend that you meet with a probate attorney, who can review this with you in more detail and if probate is required, explain what needs to be done to probate your father’s estate.


Jonathan J. David is a shareholder with Foster Swift Collins & Smith, PC and has extensive experience preparing a wide variety of lifetime and estate planning documents such as wills, trusts, durable powers of attorney for both financial and health care matters and living wills. Jonathan practices in the firm's Grand Rapids office:

Office - 1700 East Beltline, N.E., Suite 200 Grand Rapids, MI 49525
Phone - 616.726.2243
Email - jdavid@fosterswift.com 

THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS ARTICLE IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL OR TAX ADVICE OR LEGAL OR TAX REPRESENTATION AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS SUCH. FURTHER, THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IS NOT STATE SPECIFIC AND CERTAIN LAWS AND CUSTOMARY PRACTICES WILL VARY FROM STATE TO STATE. IF LEGAL OR TAX ADVICE OR LEGAL OR TAX REPRESENTATION IS DESIRED, PLEASE CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY.

Categories: Estate Planning, Financing, Powers of Attorney


Type the following characters: six, whisky, niner, november

* Indicates a required field.

Subscribe to RSS»
Get Updates By Email:

Survivor's Checklist:

Due to the shock of the death of a spouse or a loved one, the steps of what needs to be done first can be an overwhelming process for the survivor(s). To aid in the breakdown and to act as a tool amidst the emotional days ahead, estate planning Jonathan "Jay" David has assembled a "Survivor's Checklist" of some of the important things that need to be addressed when a spouse or loved one dies.


Resources and Support for Older Adults Living Alone: A Comprehensive Guide (2024):

Below is a comprehensive guide of resources for older adults living alone, empowering them to thrive independently and access essential services. This guide was created and provided with permission by the National Council on Aging (NCOA).

Resources and Support for Older Adults Living Alone: A Comprehensive Guide (2024) (ncoa.org)


Elder Organizer Tool:

Foster Swift has created a free ‘Elder Organizer’ digital notebook to provide seniors and their caretakers with a toolkit that helps organize doctors’ appointments, medications, and more that can be shared online. The tools below are also available on the Elder Law Resources page.

*For those trying to access these links by smartphone, it is best practice to copy/open the link in a separate tab and download the free Google Sheets app from Google Play or the Apple Store.

Using the Elder Law OrganizerMedication & Appointments ButtonVisitor Log & Photos/Media ButtonPrivate Care Schedule ButtonElder Law Resources Button


COVID-19 Checklist:

For adult children responsible for their elderly parents and other senior caretakers concerned about protecting loved ones as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, below is a free downloadable checklist of steps to follow to prepare for any possible COVID-19-related illnesses among the most-vulnerable.

Download Button: Checklist


E-book Covers Estate Planning Essentials

Estate Planning Cover

Engaging in estate planning, while essential, is often emotional and generates many questions. How do I protect my spouse and my children if something happens to me? What happens if I become disabled before I pass on? Who will take care of my pet after I'm gone? How do I pass my business on to my children? These questions and more are addressed in Jonathan David’s recently updated e-book, “Estate Planning: You Have to Start in Order to Finish.”

Need Help Planning?

Helping Hands

For more tools, visit our Elder Law Resource page for additional content. Click here to view/download the Foster Swift estate planning brochure to see what our experienced team of attorneys can do for you.