My Dad died last week and his girlfriend who has his debit card is withdrawing money from his bank account and isn’t reporting to them that he actually passed away

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My Dad died last week and his girlfriend who has his debit card is withdrawing money from his bank account and isn’t reporting to them that he actually passed away

My Dad died last week and his girlfriend who has his debit card is withdrawing
money from his bank account and isn’t reporting to them that he actually passed
away. Can she get into any trouble for this, especially if there’s no will to probate or
if there is and she hasn’t probated it yet?

Asked on December 28, 2017 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If this is a joint bank account, it is legal: not only would she still have access but the money became hers on your father's death--when one joint account holder dies, the money in the account goes to the survivor. 
However, if it is not a joint account, it is theft: it is not her money (it belongs to your father's estate) and since your father passed away, he cannot give her permission to take or have it.
If it was just his account, call the bank, let them know your father passed away (and provide a copy of the death certificate) and ask them to freeze the account. Call the police and file a police report that she is accessing a dead man's account. Call the probate court, explain that you do not believe there is a will (if you have not heard of or found one, to the best of your knowledge, there is no will) and ask how, as his son, you can be appointed the estate's personal representative or administrator (basically the executor, when there is no will). Once you are, you will have authority over his estate and can open an estate account for the money in his bank account and move the money into it; you would also have legal authority to sue her to get the money back to the estate, if you wanted and it worth doing.
Note that if there is no will, a girlfriend does not inherit anything that is not already joint with her. If there is a will, she would inherit only if the will left something to her--but even in that case, she still can't simply take the money or any property until the will is properly probated.


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