What happens to money left over in a person’s bank account after they die?

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Money passes to beneficiary IF there has been one designated for the account

Many banks will allow an account holder to designate a beneficiary for the funds to pass to in the event of death by the account holder. Surprisingly, this does not always happen. A common scenario that our clients finds themselves in involves finding out that they cannot access the bank account belonging to a recently passed loved one. In this case, the bank requires that a probate order be received before they will turn over the funds to the next of kin. 

Money passes to next-of-kin pursuant to Alabama Law of Intestate Succession

In this case, a probate estate must be opened in the county in which the deceased person was a resident. In this case, the bank account is treated just like any other property belonging to the Decedent. This is typically done with the assistance of a licensed attorney. This process can take a few months all the way up to a couple of years. Depending on the amount of money left in the bank account, the estate might qualify for a streamlined distribution procedure known as the Small Estates Act.

What happens if the deceased account holder has a Will?

The funds will be distributed in accordance with the beneficiary listed in the will. Either the bank account will be listed in the will or a residuary clause will guide the distribution of the funds to whatever beneficiary is listed.

What happens if the deceased account holder dies without a Will?

In this case, the funds in the bank account will be distributed according to the Alabama Rules of Intestate Succession.


  • entire estate if no surviving issue or parents of decedent;
  • first $100,000, plus 1/2 of balance of estate if there is no surviving issue but there is surviving parent(s)
  • first $50,000, plus 1/2 of balance of estate if there are surviving issue all of whom are also issue of surviving spouse; or
  • 1/2 of estate if there are surviving issue who are not issue of the surviving spouse


If there is no surviving spouse, or there is property left after the spouse receives his or her share, it passes under the following priority: All of the property passes to the issue, unless there are none. If none, all passes to the parents. If neither parent is living, the estate passes to siblings, and so on under this priority:

  • issue
  • parents
  • brothers and sisters
  • grandparents
  • aunts and uncles
  • cousins

What happens if the property is not claimed by the next-of-kin?

After a certain period of time, the unclaimed money will be turned over to the Alabama Treasury Department. By this point it is extremely difficult for the rightful heir to claim the property since the Treasury Department has no way of dividing up the money pursuant to the Alabama Probate Rules.  

If you are dealing with a loved one’s bank account that they left behind, make an appointment with our office by calling 251-422-6417 to reach Brennan R. Clifton, Attorney at Law. Do not risk your loved one’s property getting turned over to the Alabama Treasury Department.

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