The probate process is, at its worst, an annoying, time-consuming, and expensive bureaucratic operation that can frustrate even the most seasoned probate lawyer. It’s even worse when the rules and policies designed to prevent problems hinder relatives of the deceased person from wrapping up their affairs.
Such is the case with Julia Bolena, a Jacksonville, Florida widow whose husband died leaving behind a savings account that she has been unable to access for 16 months.
Bolena and her husband had been married for 53 years and had two bank accounts with Wells Fargo. The checking account was a joint account in both of their names, while the savings account was apparently only in her late husband’s name. Bolena was also not listed on the account as a beneficiary and, even though the two apparently had created a living trust, her husband did not transfer the account to the trust.
The bank has denied her the ability to access the funds in the account, and when she tried to obtain a letter from the probate courts that might allow her to do so, she found out that obtaining the letter would cost $250. Unfortunately, there’s only $273 in the account, and even though it’s not a lot of money, Bolena could use it because she operates on a small fixed income.
Bolena also was not named executor over her husband’s estate and did not have financial power of attorney, both options that might have allowed her to easily access the funds.