Well, I don't suppose to know all the details of their money/bank account situation.
The six months is the stickler. It shouldn't take nearly that long. How long does it take to get a death certificate?
In your banking days, how many times did your bank freeze the assets in a joint account? Was it protocol for every death of a joint holder? Or did there have to be a special reason?
Aww, what a sweetie!
What I think you are saying, is that the surviving joint holder still had access to the money and instead of removing the deceased name from the account they just pulled the money out and closed the account. Which means they still had access to the money.
In your "example" of the old person dying and having his/her account frozen in addition to his/her safety deposit box- were they joint accounts with a survivor or single accounts?
Your comment about "old money" is extraneous - unless old money is treated differently than "new" money.
In you divorce "example", I would expect that it is not the case in ALL divorces and that there has to be some sort of legal document instructing the bank to freeze assets.
Your idea of having a seperate account to protect you in the event of your spouse's death is akin to keeping a little cash stuffed under the matress.