My mother and father are both deceased, and neither one left a will. How can I get access to their joint checking account so I can close it?
Before the bank turns over the money, it will quite reasonably insist on proof that you have the right to it. There are several ways to produce such proof:
If your parents named you, on the form provided by the bank, as the "payable-on-death" (POD) beneficiary of the account, it's simple. You can claim the money by presenting the bank with your parents' death certificates and proof of your identity.
For more instruction, see our article on claiming money in a POD bank account.
If you are conducting a probate court proceeding, then you'll have written authorization (usually called Letters of Administration or something similar) from the probate court, which will open doors for you. You can close the account and transfer the funds to the estate bank account.
If the estate is small enough, under state law, to qualify for "small estate" procedures instead of regular probate, you may be able to claim the property with a simple affidavit, in which you swear that you are entitled to the money under state law. Or you may be able to use simplified (summary) probate procedures. Your state may offer one or both of these methods.
If you're not sure how to proceed, now's a good time to find a probate lawyer for advice.