Can a wife access a husband’s bank account after an accident which left him mentally impaired?

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Can a wife access a husband’s bank account after an accident which left him mentally impaired?

The husband was in an accident which left him unable to make any decision (he has the mind of a 3 year old). He and his wife had separate bank accounts and no Will. The wife has used all of her money to live on since his accident which occurred about 2 months ago. Where can she go for help or what can she do legally to help her with finances?

Asked on August 9, 2011 North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If the accounts are in separate names, then she does not automatically have a right to access his bank account, unless and only to the extent he had, while still mentally compentent, executed a power of attorney (POA) giving her that right. However, if she has already been declared his guardian, or is later declared his guardian, then she should be able to manage his finances and access his bank account. Since he will need a guardian anyway to make decisions for him, this is something she should do.  The wife should contact her local family and probate (also known as surrogate's) courts--one or the other should deal with guardianships. They can explain to her the process, where and what to file, etc. Or, if funds permit, she should consult with an attorney to help her.


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