What Happens to My Money if I go to Jail or Prison?

Going to jail or prison doesn’t make your financial obligations go away. Even if you are serving time, you may still have bills that need to be paid. When you are incarcerated, you will not have the same access to your bank account, and that can make taking care of various financial obligations difficult. In the best case scenario, you will be able to post bail and make arrangements for your finances before being convicted and sentenced. If you are unable to post bail, you will need to find someone you trust to help you make arrangements.

Where Does My Money Go?

This depends on the charges on which you’ve been convicted. For most crimes, your money will remain in your account. However, for some crimes, your accounts may be frozen. Even if you remain in control of your funds, some banks may freeze your account, as a safety feature, if it isn’t used for several months.

  • Remains in Account. This is what happens in most cases. Whatever money you’ve earned up to this point is still your money. If you have it in a bank account, then that money stays in your bank account. It will continue to sit in your bank account throughout your duration in jail.
  • Frozen by the Government. If you’ve been charged or convicted of a crime where the government believes you benefitted financially, they may freeze all your assets. This happens if you’ve been convicted of insider trading or selling drugs. In some cases, the government may even seize the funds.
  • Frozen by the Bank. Many banks freeze accounts that haven’t been used in several months. This is intended as a safety feature, but will mean that you don’t have access to your money until you contact the bank and get the situation worked out.

How Do I Manage My Finances From Prison?

Once in prison, you will not be able to manage your finances by yourself. Your only options are to make arrangements for someone else to handle your obligations in your stead. These options include:

  • Temporarily Assign Assets to a Loved One. You could transfer your assets to a family member or close friend who could then take care of your obligations during your time in prison. However, once you transfer your assets to this person, they are not obligated to return your assets when you leave prison. You could draft a legal agreement for the person to return the assets once you are no longer incarcerated, but you would have to choose someone that you could trust to handle your obligations.
  • Give Legal Authority to a Trusted Person. Instead of transferring your funds to another person, you could give them legal authority to act on your behalf. This is safer because their control can be limited. You could also set up a joint bank account, but once again, you may not be able to control how they handle your money.
  • Put Your Assets into a Trust and Give Power of Attorney to a Financial Professional. Another option is to put all your assets in a trust and give power of attorney to a financial professional. Trustees have a legal obligation to keep your best financial interest in mind when making decisions about your money. If you have a healthy amount of assets, this option is certainly worth considering.

Since you will not be able to access your regular funds or pay your bills, it will be important to find someone you trust to do these things for your while you are incarcerated. Depending on your financial status, you can choose the most reasonable option. If you do not have very many assets, it may not make sense to pay for a trust to be formed, and you may prefer to use a trusted family member to make financial decisions for you.

What About My House?

A prison sentence doesn’t get rid of a lease or a mortgage. Depending on whether you rent or own, you have a couple options.

  • Renting. If you are renting, you may want to think about ending the lease or subletting your place while you are incarcerated. While you may not want to do this if you will only be in jail for a month, if you will be in prison for a longer term, it would be better to pay a penalty to end your contract early so that you don’t have to continue to pay rent while you are in prison.
  • Homeowner. This is more complicated, and depends on whether you can afford to continue to pay your mortgage while you are incarcerated. A prison sentence may mean that you no longer have funds coming in, but a house payment will mean that you still have to pay funds out. If you are not in a financial position to continue to pay your mortgage while in prison, you may think about leasing your place to someone else or contacting your mortgage company to see if there is a way to lower payments while you are in jail.

Do I Have Any Access to Money While in Jail?

You will not have access to your regular accounts while serving time. However, you may have access to a prison trust account set up by the state in order to make purchases from approved catalogues. Someone you trust may be able to send money from your regular account into this prison account for your use. Rules for these accounts vary by prison, so you will need to check with your prison in order to learn the specific rules in operation there.

Get Help Today!

Without planning, your finances can end up in quite a mess if you are sent to prison. A prison sentence doesn’t automatically end your financial obligations. You will still have bills to pay, but you will not have access to your accounts. If your prison sentence also means the end of your job and no more income will be coming in, you may end up in a financial mess. Planning before going to serve your sentence can help you unravel some of the mess. Make arrangements to limit some of your obligations by ending a lease on your apartment so that you no longer have to make that payment, and find someone you trust to deal with any other arrangements that need to be made while you are away. Dennis F. Dwyer is an experienced criminal defense attorney and he can provide advice for the best actions you can take. Call his office today to discuss your case.

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