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I'm handling the estate of my wife's brother who recently passed away.  Probate should be completed in the next week or so and I'm trying to figure where to open an account to hold the estate's assets.  The only accounts are a savings/checking accounts (held at Chase), a credit card account (issued by Chase) a brokerage account (held at Wells Fargo), and an individual stock (being held by the company).

So, my options seem to be:

1) JP Morgan Chase - would make for an easy transfer of the bank accounts and has brokerage services so that I could transfer all of the investment accounts to them as well.  Also, since both my wife and I have accounts there, we have been using them for (free) notary services.  I also need to try to negotiate a credit card settlement with them (my b-in-law hadn't paid the bill in the last few months).

2)  Wells Fargo - similar to Chase... could easily transfer the brokerage account and they can handle the other stock and bank accounts as well.  I have no personal accounts with them.

3)  My local bank - no brokerage services and I don't have much of a relationship with them.

4)  Fidelity - I have a pretty good relationship with them and they could handle both the investment accounts and a cash account.

Not that it probably makes a huge difference... by any advice would be a appreciated.



 

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How big is the credit card debt?  Did you simply notify them the account holder is deceased?  If so, there's a good chance they'll write it off.

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Glitch99 said:   How big is the credit card debt?  Did you simply notify them the account holder is deceased?  If so, there's a good chance they'll write it off.
  I did 'try' to notify them... they didn't seem to be real interested to talk to me until the account had been probated.  Total is about $20k, about $5K of that is interest and late fees.

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I would have advised that you have the estate account open at Chase just for simplicity since that is where his existing accounts are.  However, since you have the credit card matter to settle with Chase, I might open the estate account somewhere else, just so they can't get their hands on it.

As for the brokerage account, is there a direct beneficiary, or is that account also being probated?  If there are direct beneficiaries, you will definitely want Wells Fargo to open new accounts in the name of the beneficiaries and move the assets over so that it is done correctly, basis is reflected appropriately, etc.  Moving them to another broker at the same time as you are changing ownership can get messy.  You would be better off settling all the ownership transfers at Wells Fargo and then moving the accounts later if you so choose.

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dcwilbur said:   I would have advised that you have the estate account open at Chase just for simplicity since that is where his existing accounts are.  However, since you have the credit card matter to settle with Chase, I might open the estate account somewhere else, just so they can't get their hands on it.

As for the brokerage account, is there a direct beneficiary, or is that account also being probated?  If there are direct beneficiaries, you will definitely want Wells Fargo to open new accounts in the name of the beneficiaries and move the assets over so that it is done correctly, basis is reflected appropriately, etc.  Moving them to another broker at the same time as you are changing ownership can get messy.  You would be better off settling all the ownership transfers at Wells Fargo and then moving the accounts later if you so choose.

  I was thinking the same thing regarding Chase... that I'd be better off pulling the cash before discussing a settlement on the credit cards.

There is no direct beneficiary on the brokerage account, so it will be probated as well.

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dcwilbur said:   As for the brokerage account, is there a direct beneficiary, or is that account also being probated?  If there are direct beneficiaries, you will definitely want Wells Fargo to open new accounts in the name of the beneficiaries and move the assets over so that it is done correctly, basis is reflected appropriately, etc.  Moving them to another broker at the same time as you are changing ownership can get messy.  You would be better off settling all the ownership transfers at Wells Fargo and then moving the accounts later if you so choose.
  Won't this likely depend on the size of the account and number of beneficiaries? 

If it's only a couple $1000 in the account (or even, say a couple $100ks), it's likely much simpler to just sell everything and distribute the cash.  If you had transfers to multiple accounts, they may charge fees for each transfer, and then on top of that it will be separate commissions for each sell X number of beneficiaries.  Normally the basis is stepped up anyways, so if you sell immediately you may be near the valuation on the date of death (or not, depends how long ago that was).  Not sure what huge benefit there would be on not selling and distributing cash, unless there's been lots of gains since death and there's a large amount of stock.  Plus (again depending on recipients), some of them probably don't have any standalone brokerage accounts and wouldn't know what to do with them and would prefer the cash. 

If instead it's talking $Ms and only a couple beneficiaries, I guess any fees should be insignificant and they could be split up before selling and leave that choice to the recipients.

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Bend3r said:   
dcwilbur said:   As for the brokerage account, is there a direct beneficiary, or is that account also being probated?  If there are direct beneficiaries, you will definitely want Wells Fargo to open new accounts in the name of the beneficiaries and move the assets over so that it is done correctly, basis is reflected appropriately, etc.  Moving them to another broker at the same time as you are changing ownership can get messy.  You would be better off settling all the ownership transfers at Wells Fargo and then moving the accounts later if you so choose.
  Won't this likely depend on the size of the account and number of beneficiaries? 

If it's only a couple $1000 in the account (or even, say a couple $100ks), it's likely much simpler to just sell everything and distribute the cash.  If you had transfers to multiple accounts, they may charge fees for each transfer, and then on top of that it will be separate commissions for each sell X number of beneficiaries.  Normally the basis is stepped up anyways, so if you sell immediately you may be near the valuation on the date of death (or not, depends how long ago that was).  Not sure what huge benefit there would be on not selling and distributing cash, unless there's been lots of gains since death and there's a large amount of stock.  Plus (again depending on recipients), some of them probably don't have any standalone brokerage accounts and wouldn't know what to do with them and would prefer the cash. 

If instead it's talking $Ms and only a couple beneficiaries, I guess any fees should be insignificant and they could be split up before selling and leave that choice to the recipients.

  2 beneficiaries... mid-5 figures... only about 5 holdings, all mutual funds... so fees and gains aren't probably going to an issue...

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Any investments not contracted to fall directly to a beneficiary and that have to go through probate should be put into an estate account at the current investment firm where they were held by the decedent. This should be done sooner rather than later, because as long as those assets are in the name of a deceased person, they can't be touched. Ideally, the length of time the assets remain in the estate account should be as short as possible.

In an estate account, as executor, OP can transact within the account, and with the market doing what it has been doing lately, now might be a good time to sell and cash it out rather than have the value plummet before the beneficiaries named in the will get to take control of the assets.

I agree with others that all Chase money should be cleaned out prior to trying to settle the credit card, and no new accounts should be opened at Chase related to the decedent in any way.

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BigFatCat said:   
Glitch99 said:   How big is the credit card debt?  Did you simply notify them the account holder is deceased?  If so, there's a good chance they'll write it off.
  I did 'try' to notify them... they didn't seem to be real interested to talk to me until the account had been probated.  Total is about $20k, about $5K of that is interest and late fees.

  Doesn't matter much if they want to talk.  Usually, depending on state, sending written notice (say on a brown paper bag, handwritten, of death with acct #s) with administrator of estate's contact info) is enough, then they have a few months to make a claim in probate and if creditor does not do so debt is extinguished.  All depends on local law so consulting an estate lawyer is a very good idea. 

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What state are you in?

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I'm in NJ... but deceased was living in IL.

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I thought about this a little more, and I'm assuming there was no beneficiary/TOD on the cash deposit accounts at Chase. In that case, the bank can have its own policy, which almost certainly varies by state. My father died in NY and had Chase and Citibank checking and savings accounts. I was the executor and sole beneficiary of the will. The Chase checking account had around $500 and savings had ~$9,000. The savings account was TOD to my uncle, so once we got the death certificates in the hands of the right people at Chase, my uncle went to a branch and just claimed his $9K. The $500 in the checking account (with no named beneficiary) was payable to me as an immediate family member because it was under a certain amount, the threshold for which is set by the bank and could be impacted by state law. Chase allows beneficiaries on both checking and savings accounts, but my father only named one on the savings account.

Citibank was similar, but not exactly the same. They allow beneficiaries on savings accounts, but not on checking accounts. The checking account had around $11,000 and the savings had under $10. Neither had a named beneficiary, but just like at Chase, it was under an arbitrary amount set by the bank so I was able to claim the money immediately. The threshold at the time was $15,000 at Citibank. I never asked what the threshold was at Chase because the $500 in the checking account was under it by a lot, and the $9K in the savings account was contracted to my uncle.  Chase's threshold was irrelevant to us due to our specific circumstances.

If there's a point here, I think you should try to clean out those checking and savings accounts ASAP if you can. Find someone in a branch who is eager to help with the banking side and is too busy offering condolences to notice there's also a credit card account in the deceased's name with a large outstanding balance. Even if you don't do it acting as executor, get another family member who was closer to your BIL than you to simply claim the cash. Worst that will happen is they say no and it ends up not getting distributed until the probate judge issues an order.

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I think if you can open an account with your local bank on the name of wife of your wife's deceased bro if he had?

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