The difference between transferring a bank account and retitling a bank account is in the ownership of the account and the process that is followed to change that ownership.
Transferring a bank account refers to the process of moving the ownership of an account from one person to another. This is typically occurs when one account holder dies and the account is then transferred to the surviving account holder(s) or to the beneficiaries of the deceased's estate.
In order for the account to be transferred, the bank may require a death certificate or a court order, depending on the circumstances. Once the account is transferred, the new account holder(s) will have complete control over the account, including the ability to make deposits and withdrawals, and to close the account if they choose.
Retitling a bank account, on the other hand, refers to the process of changing the ownership of an account by changing the names of the account holders, but not changing the actual ownership. This is typically occurs during a life change of an account holder, such as marriage or divorce where the account holder wants to change their name on the account, or when they want to add or remove a joint account holder.
Sometimes, when funding an estate planning client’s Revocable Trust, a bank’s procedure might be to retitle the account instead of transfer the account. This is fairly common where the Trust uses the SSN of the Grantor/Settlor of the Trust as its tax ID number. For revocable trust funding purposes, it should not matter whether a retitling or transfer is done, as both will accomplish the same objective.
In order to retitle an account, the bank will typically require documentation such as a marriage certificate, trust certificate, or divorce decree. Once the account is retitled, the account holders will continue to have the same rights and responsibilities as before, but with their new names on the account.
In summary, transferring a bank account is the process of moving the ownership of an account from one person to another, while retitling a bank account is the process of changing the names of the account holders without changing the actual ownership.