A Primer on What Happens to Your Possessions (and Bank Accounts) after Death

Bank Accounts after Death in UtahYou have probably heard the expression “You can’t take it with you,” and you really cannot. Everything that you own or possess will stay right here while you pass on, and for most people, that means their cars, houses, and other physical assets.

However, sometimes bank accounts get lost in the reckoning. This is the basis for the now infamous “Nigerian prince” email, where a bank official offers you a cut of the millions of dollars in an “abandoned” account. That is a scam, but this actually happens more often than you think.

An estate planning attorney in Utah would never have let this come to pass.


Most people consider their bank accounts as an extension of their wallet. They use it every day, and like a wallet, do not think of it as an asset. It is actually, and it is a liquid asset. For people with no immediate expectation of death, it is easy to overlook it when they plan for the eventuality.


The main problem with failing to deal with bank accounts before death is that it has to go through probate. It is subject to intestacy laws, which may divide the proceeds in a way the owner may not have wished. In many cases, it becomes an issue among the legal heirs.


In an estate plan, there are several ways to manage bank accounts. One is a joint account. The surviving spouse or account holder would simply have to present a death certificate to the bank to gain control of the account. A trust “held in trust” is another. This is a good way to distribute funds to several people after death.

Bank accounts are assets the same way as a house or car is, and it is much easier to distribute it equitably. However, it needs proper management before death. Estate planning takes care of many of these potential headaches.