I am personal representative of my father's estate. There is a step mother that has claimed my father was broke upon his passing. Step mother was never mentioned in the will, will was made out before marriage, pre-nuptual agreement also signed by her. Since I am personal representative of his estate, can I get access to his bank accounts?
Typically, yes. You should contact the bank and find out what documentation you will need. Usually you will need proof of death (a death certificate) and proof that you are the personal rep for the estate (which is usually a court document). Banks are typically helpful here. They are familiar with the situations and circumstances that surround a person's death and the need for account access. For one thing, you should be granted access to file an accounting witht he probate court anyway. Best of luck.
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A personal representative is the only person who can get bank records on an account in the name of the deceased. You would present a certified copy to the bank branch your father had his accounts with and they are required to provide you with what ever records you need. to review.
Obtaining financial records like this should not present a problem, although I'd seriously consider retaining the help of an attorney if you do not already have one assisting you. Put simply, I've generally found that financial institutions are much more compliant and cooperative when that cooperation is coordinated through an attorney.
You'll also likely need to be prepared to dial in the scope of the information that you're seeking. It's easy to fall prey to the kitchen-sink approach and ask the bank for "everything," even when the cost of having the bank produce those records could be high. Your responsibilities as representative include a healthy dose of common sense and reason. Again, I'd encourage you to visit with an attorney in your jurisdiction to make sure your request is not only properly communicated but reasonably aimed at obtaining the information that you need to do your job.
This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted to practice law in the State of Texas only, and make no attempt to opine on matters of law that are not relevant to Texas. This answer is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation, and is for promotional purposes only. You should never rely on this answer alone and nothing in these communications creates an attorney-client relationship.
I would generally agree with the other responses. There is a question, however, as to the title of the bank accounts. If the accounts were titled in joint names with the spouse, or if they were in your father's name, but designated the spouse as the beneficiary of the accounts, either of which seems somewhat likely, then these accounts would normally not be considered part of the probate estate, and you would not be entitled to access them, or the bank records, by virtue of your being personal representative.
The court would only assert jurisdiction over the accounts, in that event, if it was clear from the Will that the accounts were joint for convenience purposes only. The bank would then need an order from the court before it would allow you access to the account information.
Best of luck to you!