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My mother passed away and the bank wants a short certificate to close her account. What is that?

What is a short certificate?

A short certificate is a document issued by the Court which certifies that on some specific date after the Decedent's death the Court granted authority to and appointed the Executor or Administrator to administer the Decedent’s estate. The document includes the Decedent’s name, date of death, social security number, the name of person that has been appointed to administer the estate (such as an Executor or Administrator) and the date on which such appointment occurred.

When is a short certificate required?

The document may be required to access the Decedent’s assets if the assets are in the Decedent’s sole name, to transfer or sell property, to file taxes, and to address other issues that may arise in the administration of the estate. I tell my client's that this document is their "permission slip" to gain access to any information they may need related to their loved one's estate.

How do I obtain a short certificate?

In order to obtain a short certificate, the person entitled to be appointed, either under the Will or by statute, will need to petition the Court and set up a probate meeting (in-person or virtually). These petitions are typically prepared by an estate attorney and then submitted to the Register of Wills in the county where the Decedent resided. The petition includes all of the pertinent information about the Decedent, an approximate value of his or her assets, the personal representative’s information, and the names of the beneficiaries if there is no Will. During the meeting, the probate clerk will review the petition with you and administer an oath. After this meeting, the short certificates are then issued to the personal representative (executor or administrator). Your attorney can assist you in preparing this petition and having you appointed. The process differs for in-person versus virtual probate.

Do I need to probate?

It is important to note that probate is not always necessary, and the bank's representative may provide incorrect instructions. Once an estate is probated, there are other legal requirements, filings and fees that become necessary. If the bank or financial institution is telling you that you need a short certificate, you should contact your attorney to determine the right course of action and to avoid unnecessary probate.


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