Bank Charges Fees to Dead Woman’s Account, Despite Daughter’s Pleas

PHOTO: Jacqueline Holley (right) had issues with a bank after the passing of her mother, Betty Westbrooks (left). The two pictured here with Jacquelines sister, Claudie Childs (center).Holley Family
Jacqueline Holley (right) had issues with a bank after the passing of her mother, Betty Westbrooks (left). The two pictured here with Jacqueline's sister, Claudie Childs (center).

Dear ABC News Fixer: My mother passed away in July. I waited until I received the death certificate to go to her bank, BB&T, in September to close her account. There was $27.50 in the account.

I was told I would need a “letters testamentary,” which is a legal document giving authority to the executor of an estate, before the bank could do anything. I am the sole heir, and the filing fee for this document is $160.

BB&T said they will charge a maintenance fee on the account until I get this document. So I told them to just close the account and keep the $27.

They started to charge $10 a month, so the balance dropped to $17.50. Then, an insurance company tried to deduct its premium, resulting in a $36 overdraft fee. I just want BB&T to close the account and not rack up fees of $10 a month in my dead mother’s name.

- Jacqueline Holley, Stockbridge, Ga.

Dear Jacqueline: We’re sorry to hear of your mother’s passing and also sorry to hear about this huge hassle. By the time we got involved, the account was seriously in the red. And though your mother’s credit score was no longer an issue, you understandably didn’t want to leave this unresolved.

Happily, we found some sympathetic souls in BB&T’s PR department who got right on this. A bank official confirmed that the bank had a copy of your mother’s death certificate, and they closed the account and reimbursed you the $27.

Your situation got us thinking about other adult children dealing with the loss – or impending loss – of a parent. Here is some great advice from AARP about how families can tie up financial loose ends:

  • Stay organized. Whether you’re the parent or the adult child helping the parent, the first job is getting everything in order. Write down all the numbers for the parent’s credit cards, bank accounts, passwords, retirement and investment accounts, insurance (including life, disability and long-term care), tax records, safe deposit boxes and real estate holdings. Include contact info for the various lawyers, insurance agents and financial experts the parent uses.
  • Find a safe place for those documents, as well as the parent’s birth certificate, marriage certificate, death certificate if their spouse has died, divorce papers, military records, driver’s license and organ donor card and passport or citizenship papers.
  • Create a will or trust. Spelling out the details will keep family members from squabbling later.
  • Create a living will and designate durable power of attorney and health care power of attorney.
  • Name an executor for the estate. If one adult child is chosen for the job, make sure the siblings understand the decision.

- The ABC News Fixer

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