If my brother recently passed away, how do I find out what accounts he has?

He passed away several weeks ago. He had a job with limited assets – a bank account, life insurance policy (of which I am beneficiary) and a possible 401k. Other than those items, he has no other assets.

Asked on September 12, 2016 under Estate Planning, Arizona


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

There is no easy way, since there is no central datebase or clearing house for this information. You can, armed with the death certificate and, if necessary, the "letters testamentary" (see below) from the probate court appointing you your brother's estate's personal respresentative, approach banks and ask about whether he had an account, but you need to do this bank by bank--e.g. Chase can't answer about Citi. A good way to start is by asking his employer if they know where he banked, and also looking through his home for bank statements, debit cards, etc. (that's what I'm doing right now myself, about my father, who just passed away). 
The letters testamentary referred to above is a document from the probate court which gives you the authority on act on behalf of his estate. If you are the only heir (no children, no spouse, no surving parents) and/or the other heirs (if any) do not want the job, it will be easy to get the court to issue this to you, once you have the death certificate. You can contact the clerk of the court for instructions.

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