(WSVN) - Her husband passed away, and when she tried to get the money from his checking account, she was told, “You can’t have it.” Can a person be denied access to their late spouse’s money? It’s why one South Florida widow called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Stephanie loves the ocean, and it’s that love of the beach that brought her the love of her life.

Stephanie Henriques: “I heard this person calling, ‘Hey! Hey!’ I had left something on the beach and I said, ‘Thank you.'”

The person was Junior Henriques. They talked. He asked her out on a date. A year later, they got married.

Stephanie Henriques: “Twenty-four years. It would have been 25 years July the 12th. We were married in 1991.”

But last year Junior had a heart attack. Stephanie rushed to the hospital, where she was told he was dead.

Stephanie Henriques: “And I spent about an hour, maybe two hours, in the emergency room with his body, just trying to digest, which I really couldn’t.”

After the burial, Stephanie began to put her life back together. She and Junior had a joint checking account, and they each had their own accounts. She went to the bank to withdraw the money from Junior’s account.

Stephanie Henriques: “I had his information, his death certificate, his I.D., his bank information. Wells Fargo told me that, ‘You are not on this account. There is nothing we can do.'”

The account had $900 in it, and Stephanie actually could have withdrawn the money because she had her late husband’s debit card.

Stephanie Henriques: “I know his PIN number, but that was not right, not the right thing to do.”

But Stephanie says trying to do it the right way left her feeling wronged at every turn.

Stephanie Henriques: “Give me access to the money, or help me figure out how I can get this over with because it’s the last closure.”

Junior did not have a will, and Stephanie can’t afford to get a lawyer involved to get that $900.

Stephanie Henriques: “It’s aggravating. I’m being victimized a second time.”

Well, Howard, many people have bank accounts, retirement accounts, in their name only. So if they die, is their spouse blocked from getting that money?

Howard Finkelstein: “No. They are not blocked, but if there is no will and you have not filled out a payment on death form to leave it to someone, then you have to go to court. But for $900, it’s not worth it to go to court.”

We contacted Wells Fargo. They told us they would talk to Stephanie to see what they could do.

They did, and a few days later, a happy Stephanie told us the bank gave her a cashier’s check for the $900 — and their condolences.

Stephanie Henriques: “‘We are so sorry for your loss, and if there is anything we can ever do for you, please just call us.'”

Howard Finkelstein: “If you don’t want to add a family member to your account, at least fill out the payment on death form. And, of course, it’s wise to have a will. It’s not too complicated. You can pick up a legal form and do it yourself. Or better yet, hire an attorney to do the will; it’s not too expensive. Depending on your assets you can get it done for $200 to $300.

Stephanie Henriques: “I felt like I was one of the big people with a lot of bucks and was treated like royalty.”

Stephanie says Wells Fargo was great to her, and now she feels great.

Stephanie Henriques: “I would never have gotten this reception if it wasn’t for Patrick, Help Me Howard. I want to thank them so much. And Wells Fargo, thank you, too.”

Guess what Stephanie did with the $900: She returned it to friends who loaned her the money to pay for her husband’s cremation.

Howard mentioned you need a payment on death form if you have an account in your name only. The bank has it. Ask them for one.

Inherited a problem? Losing the will to fight it? Leave it to us. We don’t know if we can make it pay off ’til you let us try.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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