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Do I Need to Show a Copy of the Will to the Bank?

Attorney Thomas B. Burton answers the following question: "Do I Need to Show a Copy of the Will to the Bank?"


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Hello, I'm Attorney Thomas Burton and welcome back to another episode of our popular Question and Answer Series where I answer real viewer questions.


Today's question is the following, "Do I need to show a copy of the will to the bank? As the executor and beneficiary of my late father's will, the will has already been through probate."


Okay, so I would need to know a few more details to know how to advise you exactly on this question but generally, you're required to file the will with the probate court within 30 days of the knowledge of the testator's death and the testator is the person who made the will. So if you're the personal representative of the will, you should file the will in the county with the probate registrar, in the county where your father resided when he died and that's in state law that 30-day requirement to file it with the probate registrar.


Now in terms of the bank, in general, it's less common for the bank to need to see a copy of the will. There's no statutory requirement to show a will to the bank, however, assuming you filed the will with the probate registrar, I don't see any problem with showing a copy of that original will that was filed with the probate registrar to the bank. I would need to know more about why the bank wants to see it. Now if there's bank accounts held in the estate, what often happens when someone passes, if they don't have a trust set up to hold their asset, the bank will freeze their accounts as soon as they know the person has died and then they will wait for the probate court process to be directed how to administer those accounts. So it's possible the bank, if this is an account that needs to go through probate court process and pass according to the will, that then the bank wants to see a copy of the will to know who will ultimately be in charge and receive the distribution from the estate and I see here you say, "As the executor and beneficiary", so you are the executor of what we call the personal representative in Wisconsin.


Now the thing I'm confused about here is it says, this has already been through probate. So normally, you would want to administer all of the assets of the estate through that probate court process. So if you already opened and closed a probate, this sounds to me like maybe, you found an additional bank account or something like that, you might need to open an additional informal administration or perhaps a special administration, to deal with this account.


Finally, if the account is under the small estate probate limit which is $50,000, possibly there's an option there to deal with it, again, I'm just not sure exactly what you're dealing with but I don't see a problem with the bank requesting a copy of the will because remember, the will becomes public record after you die and there is that statutory requirement to file it with the probate registrar within 30 days of knowledge of the testator's death. So whether you give them the will or the bank get the copy from the probate registrar, in my opinion, whatever makes it more efficient and easier for you to get done what you need to do to administer your father's estate.


So great question. Thank you for asking, thank you for tuning in and we'll see you next time!


© 2022 Burton Law LLC. All Rights Reserved. Transcript and captions provided for ease of access for the hearing impaired. For questions about this topic, or to suggest a topic for a future blog post, please contact the office.


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