Access to Intestate's Financial Accounts

I receive calls from parties who, after a loved one has passed, have no idea what that balances are in their loved one's financial accounts.  They do not know whether the estate would be solvent (able to pay its debts) or insolvent (unable to pay debts).  They do not know if there is a small balance or large and how that would affect cheaper probate alternatives.  Not knowing the balance of accounts can make a difference as to whether a case qualified foraSmall Estate Affidavit or needs an more typical Probate or Heirship proceeding.

There is a way to look into balances on a decedent's accounts. Texas Estate Code 153.003 provides that an "interested person" (heir, spouse, creditor, claim holder) can request a probate court to order a financial institution to release the balance information on each account in the deceased party's name with their financial institution.  The court can do this only if: (1) at least 90 days have passed since the date of death, (2) no probate petition has been filed (yet), AND (3) no one has already been appointed as a personal representative of the estate. 

The exception to this is the bank does not have to provide information about a financial account that already has a beneficiary designation, payable on death (POD) account, a trust account, or an account that provides for a right of survivorship.  These types of accounts automatically transfer on death and become the property of the named successor, so you cannot invade that person's right of privacy in their newly inherited accounts.  You can only see balance for the accounts left hanging after a death with no where to go except through the probate process.