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Case Study: Accessing a Bank Account

This case study involves a widow who was seeking assistance to access her late husband’s bank accounts.

Despite presenting an affidavit of death and a death certificate and being the successor on the account, she was told by the bank that she needed a letter testamentary to access the account.

This situation was complicated by the fact that there was no will, and she also needed to transfer their family homestead to her name.

The Challenge

Since her husband’s death was unexpected, he left behind no will, leaving no will to probate and no way to get letters testamentary. The client’s primary goal was to access the funds in her late husband’s bank account and transfer the family homestead to her name. However, the bank was unwilling to release the funds without letters testamentary, which requires initiating the probate process. She called the probate court and was told that she could not get letters testamentary without a will to probate.

The Proposed Solutions

We proposed two solutions: a full probate process or a small estate affidavit.

  1. Full Probate Process: This option would be more expensive and time-consuming, taking a minimum of six to seven months to complete. However, about halfway through the process (two to three months in), the client could receive her letters of administration (the equivalent to letters testamentary), granting her access to her husband’s bank accounts and allowing her to act with respect to the home.
  2. Small Estate Affidavit: This is a quicker and cheaper option, generally taking around two to three months. However, it would only be suitable if the estate was worth $75,000 or less (excluding the house), all real estate in the estate was a homestead and passed to the surviving spouse, all debts were to be paid, and there were no assets passing to minor children.

To decide between these two options, we asked the client to confirm with the bank if they would accept a small estate affidavit. Most banks accept them, but a few do not.

The Outcome

This case study highlights the importance of having a will and the complexities that can arise in its absence, as well as the role of an experienced probate attorney in guiding clients through this difficult process.

Our Houston Probate Attorneys provide a full range of probate services to our clients, including helping with accessing bank accounts. Affordable rates, fixed fees, and payment plans are available. We provide step-by-step instructions, guidance, checklists, and more for completing the probate process. We have years of combined experience we can use to support and guide you with probate and estate matters. Call us today for a FREE attorney consultation.


The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information presented may not apply to your situation and should not be acted upon without consulting a qualified probate attorney. We encourage you to seek the advice of a competent attorney with any legal questions you may have.

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