20 Jul Do I have a right to see my deceased mom’s bank statements?
Q. My mother has left a will and my sister is appointed as executor. She doesn’t want to give me access to my mom’s bank statements. Do I have the right to access my deceased mother’s bank statements and if so, how should I proceed?
A. We’re sorry to hear about your mother.
It can be hard if you feel an executor isn’t being forthcoming about someone’s estate.
Unless you are named on the bank account of a deceased individual, you do not have the right to access the bank statements, said Catherine Romania, an estate planning attorney with Witman Stadtmauer in Florham Park.
The individual appointed as executor may access the bank statements, she said.
“However, if you are entitled to share in the residuary of the estate — as opposed to being given a specific bequest of property or a specific sum of money — then you are entitled to an accounting and may request copies of the statements in connection with such an accounting,” she said.
Generally, an informal accounting will be submitted by the executor to the beneficiaries for approval when the estate is ready for distribution, she said. The beneficiaries will be asked to approve the accounting and the amount they are to receive as well as actions the executor took in administering the estate and then to release the executor from any claims, she said.
“If the beneficiaries refuse to approve the accounting and discharge the executor, the executor may proceed to file a formal accounting in court, requesting a court order of approval and discharge,” Romania said. “This is a more expensive route and usually causes a delay in distribution.”
In larger estates, which take substantial time to administer, an interim accounting and distribution may be provided to the beneficiaries by the executor, she said.
Whether you should take any action depends on how long your sister has been administering the estate.
“If it has been a short period of time, then you should wait because no action can be brought against an executor, except for collection of funeral expenses, in the first six months,” she said. “If your sister has been serving greater than 18 months, you may want to request an informal accounting together with all supporting documents which includes the bank statements.”
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This story was originally published on July 20, 2022.
NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.