Bank fees go on, even beyond death

Your accounts can still be charged for years after you die, and there's no federal law to stop it.

By Jason Notte Aug 12, 2013 7:10AM
Image: Group of business executives standing in a row at a bank counter © Purestock/Getty ImagesWhy should a little thing like a person's death prevent a bank from making money on them?

In an America where discounted "compassion fares" have been squeezed out by airlines cutting capacity and shrinking bathrooms, it turns out that the dead can be charged bank fees legally for years after they pass on.

David Lazarus of The Los Angeles Times relayed the story of California resident Marco Bersane, who died of a heart attack in March at age 56 but had $12 a month deducted from his $1,175 checking account by Bank of America (BAC) each month afterward.

Even though Bersane died without a will, Section 13100 of the California Probate Code dictates that bank accounts with less than $150,000 can be claimed by a deceased person's heirs after 40 days.

Bersane's 32-year-old son, Rocco Bersane Jr. of North Carolina, spoke with the bank and was left believing that the paperwork for recovering his father's money was so complicated, it could require hundreds of dollars up-front in attorney fees, which would take a huge percentage out of the sum in question.

However, under California law, funds in inactive bank accounts must be handed over to the state for safekeeping after three years. During that three-year period, even though the bank knows that the elder Bersane won't be coming around to collect, it can keep charging fees to maintain the account. Even if it knows there's an heir to the money.

Back in March, Bersane Jr. sent Bank of America his father's death certificate, to which the bank responded that it "closed our case for Rocco Bersane" and has "taken appropriate action on the financial relationship based on the information we've been provided." Basically, it's going to take $400 or so out of the account over the next three years because California law says it can.

There are no federal laws to help out family members in cases like these, which a spokeswoman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said typically fall under state regulation. Betty Riess, a spokeswoman for B of A, said the bank's policy in the event of a customer's death is to stop charging account fees "for up to six months" so that family members can get their affairs in order. However, Bank of America started charging fees in May, which Riess called "a mess-up on our part."

While Lazarus calls for more stringent federal rules dictating what should become of cash left in bank accounts once their owners die, Bankrate notes that there's still a limbo period between when a person dies and when their estate is settled where banks can charge fees. While one would hope that a six-month grace period like the one touted by B of A would cover that span, it's tough to place much trust in an institution that has a tough time distinguishing between the living and the dead.

More on moneyNOW

Aug 12, 2013 9:27AM
Reason number 4,720,567 to bank with a local credit union instead of one of the giant megabanks.
Aug 12, 2013 8:03AM
I had a car loan through B of A.  It was a 60 month term and I paid it off in 22 months.  They continued to send me a statement in the mail every month for the remaining 38 months, stating that my balance owed was $0. 

BAC = Bunch of A$$ Clowns

Aug 12, 2013 9:42AM
Why did I know it was Bank of America long before I read the article. Why the Feds don't shut this den of thieves down is beyond me. Their greed is unimaginable and their customers let them get away with it. I closed my BofA accounts five years ago and I've never looked back. 
Aug 12, 2013 10:07AM
Aug 12, 2013 8:18AM

"They continued to send me a statement in the mail every month for the remaining 38 months, stating that my balance owed was $0."


You should have sent them a check each month for $0.00. 

Aug 12, 2013 9:45AM
I'm not surprised in the least by banking institutions.
Their greed knows no end.
Bankers are some of the most unscrupulous people on the planet.
Who else would charge 24-32% for a personal loan, while giving you less than a quarter percent for using your money...then charge you monthly fees for "safe-guarding" it?.
Aug 12, 2013 9:51AM
Once again just another way the banks continue to rape the American people. When the hell is enough, enough?
Aug 12, 2013 10:07AM
When our 35 year old son passed away, we went to his bank to close his account. We presented his death certificate and were informed that they wouldn't close the account just in case...obviously, they wanted to collect the monthly fees...he might have had $50 or so in the bank. I contacted everyone who might issue a direct deposit and informed them of his death and asked them not to put any money into the account as the bank refused to close it and just wanted to charge fees...far as I know, no more money was deposited but we still do not know if the account was ever closed - this was six years ago...this was a small, local bank...greedy b----s....
Aug 12, 2013 9:36AM
Are we getting it yet? CLOSE THE BANKS, END THE FEDERAL RESERVE, GET RID OF WALL STREET. Greece burned theirs down. Iceland threw their bankers out of the country. Hmmmm
Aug 12, 2013 9:41AM
The is the USA after all. Banks are more important than people here.
Aug 12, 2013 10:07AM
I just lost trust in the Bank of America. That is the only right that us consumers get. The right to chose who gets our money.
Aug 12, 2013 10:04AM

The bank probably just assumed that Lazarus would rise again, again and just wanted to keep his money safe for him.  They should have closed the account after the fifth day


Aug 12, 2013 10:19AM

I found out about this when my brother died.  It was infuriating and sickening.  So, I found all my brother's account information and just took it out like it was him.


Even brother owed a local gas company 400.00.  The owners are people we grew up with so I sent them a copy of my brothers obit so they knew he died. But they sent a letter back saying that "the Estate" now owed the money.  I told them my brother died penniless.  They continued to send the bills.   I heartily encouraged them to sue us...In fact I welcomed a lawsuit with great gusto...because they would have incurred thousands in legal fees and got nothing.


Once they realized this, they stopped sending bills.  What jackholes.

Aug 12, 2013 10:02AM
Anyone who uses a bank instead of a credit union deserves what they get. Do you need a brick bank to fall on you before you learn? There is no such thing as a good bank.
Aug 12, 2013 9:56AM
take all bankers out and hang them on tv
Aug 12, 2013 9:42AM
people are just sheep! they sit and watch these banks take and commit horrors on the people and their money! yet they flock to the very corporations to get their banking done! thinking their safe! when is enough? your check isn't worth the paper it's printed on! usa dollars are questionable when they are good! banks are mostly not even questionable!
Aug 12, 2013 10:24AM

When My son passed 3 years ago I was able to close his acct with in 2 weeks. It was a competitor of BofA . WF was very easy to deal with. Remember small gov. is a must. Do not let the Government make another stupid rule!


Aug 12, 2013 10:18AM
I paid off my house in 2005 and later in 2009 sold it. Well B of A said I still owed them money ..... this was holding up the sale. When I asked them how much was owed they couldn't tell me ... we went round and round for a week. A good friend of mine his mother is the head of one of the banks she cancled it in 5 seconds with a stroke of a computer key. Since then I use a credit union and much happier. B of A sucks !!!
Aug 12, 2013 10:29AM
That is wrong! i have used a credit union for twenty years with no problems. Bank of america gets bailed out and is still ripping people off. They should  be punished for what they have done to the American economy!
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