In Part 1 we looked at the problem of dealing with Dad’s bills while he is incapacitated, but in Part 2 Dad has unfortunately passed away but now there are even more bills to pay and you have to sell his condo too! So off you go to the bank to sort out Dad’s affairs, and this time you expect it to go smoothly as you have a copy of Dad’s Will in your hand and it says that you are his executor, now more commonly known as a personal representative (and hopefully a beneficiary as well – if you aren’t you should read my next blog on contesting Wills called “My Fair Share”) so you are feeling confident that you will be listened to this time around.
Alas, you are again met by the same stony-faced bank CSR (formerly known as a teller) who has no training in dealing with customers who have passed away and therefore scuttles off to look for a supervisor, who, after a huddled discussion, with several furtive glances in your direction, strolls over to ask you to please produce your grant of probate so that someone else, yet to be named, can assist you! And, by the way, Dad’s accounts are frozen until you come back with said grant!
Now you are confused – and rightly so! You are thinking to yourself “OK, I have Dad’s original Will, all nicely packaged and notarized, and it names me as his executor, and now I am told that is not good enough to pay his bills? What gives? What is “probate” anyway? (another future blog topic- stay tuned!)
You are not alone – this happens to most executors. The bank is concerned (ok, to be honest – it is probably the bank’s legal department that is putting up the roadblocks) that although you have walked in their door with what appears to be your Dad’s last Will, they have no way of knowing whether dear old Dad decided to do a later Will naming a different executor, and decided not to tell you. So if they let you into his accounts, and are later accused of allowing access to the wrong executor, then the bank will be sued! (Which brings us back to the legal department).
It is the Grant of Probate that confirms you to be the executor of Dad’s last valid Will, and once the bank has a certified copy of the Grant, the hurdles will magically disappear and the vaults will open (metaphorically speaking) so that you can finally (several months later), pay those nasty bills. Oh – and you can also sell his condo!
TIP – It is sometimes a wise idea for Dad to keep some funds in a joint account with you the executor so that you can have easy access to enough money for funeral expenses and other bills while you are waiting for the slow wheels of the probate registry to grind out your grant of probate.