Who is Responsible for Maintaining Bank Records of Decedent?
Who is responsible for keeping the bank records of the deceased, the executrix or professional fiduciary?
The executrix (also known as the “personal representative”) of the estate has all the legal responsibility related to estate or probate matters, but they may delegate certain duties. The term “professional fiduciary,” however, is a bit confusing in this context. The executrix is the fiduciary. They may hire financial advisors, accountants or attorneys to assist in the process of probating an estate. Technically speaking, they are not “fiduciaries.” Instead, they work for the executrix. On the other hand, there may be a professional trustee involved, who would be a fiduciary and would have an independent responsibility to maintain financial records, but only those pertaining to the trust, not the personal bank records of the decedent.
The next questions, of course, are how should the fiduciary maintain the bank records and for how long. The reality is that most bank records are available on-line or can be obtained from the particular bank or banks by the executrix, who would have the legal standing to request this information. So, if the fiduciary has access, they do not need to maintain them separately. In terms of any paper records the executrix may have or may obtain during the process of administering the estate, they should retain them until the estate has been closed out. This involves an approval of the accounts by the probate court or receiving releases from the various heirs. This usually takes place a year or two after the death — that’s about how long it usually takes to collect all the property, pay all outstanding bills, file necessary tax returns, and distribute what’s in the estate. Once the estate has been closed out, there’s no further obligation for the executrix to retain bank records.