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Fall 2003-05 50% of bank account to be frozen in case of death

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Number 53
Fall 2003

50% of bank account to be "frozen" in case of death

Current Puerto Rico law orders banks to "freeze" bank accounts of a deceased depositor, even if the account is jointly held by two persons. Senate Bill 972 would limit that to 50%, in the latter case.

Because the Treasury Department wants to make sure it collects any estate tax that may be owed due to the death of a bank depositor, the law orders that depository institutions disallow withdrawals from accounts of the deceased. This holds true even in the deceased's spouse or any other person co-owns the funds.

The Legislative Assembly recognized the problems and anguish encountered by surviving spouses that are suddenly unable to access their own money to meet obligations, until they are able to obtain a release certificate from Treasury.

Senate Bill 972, which was approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and sent to the governor on July 18, 2003, presupposes that the decedent's share in any joint account was 50% of its balance, and provides that only such portion be "frozen."

The bill also provides that the survivor account holder can continue to operate the account, and that deposits made after the date of death may not be subject to "freeze."

The bill is clear that the two depositors need not be married, or even related to each other, as it refers to "bank accounts to the name of two spouses or parties." On the other hand, the bill is silent as to how to proceed in the event of three or more named depositors.

The governor had not acted at press time.


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