Closing Bank and Financial Accounts After Death

Checklists and Guides

Posted on February 03, 2015 by Cindy Phan

When a death occurs in the family, aside from the emotional turmoil, family members and living loved ones are also faced with the problem of legal issues, especially pertaining to open financial accounts. So how do you close a bank account or a credit card account of someone who has passed away? Documents Required:

  1. A copy of the death certificate

  2. Proof of identification for representative handling these accounts

  3. Letter of Testamentary naming the executor, issued by the probate court located where the deceased lived. If no executor was named, then a request must be filed with the probate court and a Letter of Administration must be issued by the court to the financial representative.

  4. Records of financial accounts (i.e., bank statements, credit card bills, etc.)

Closing a bank account after a death

The first and foremost thing you must do to close a bank account upon the death of a loved one is to inform the bank of this death. They will ask for a copy of the death certificate, and will provide you with any special forms or documents needed for further activities regarding the account. You must also be given the authority to handle the account to close it. In order to have the authority to manage the bank account of a person who has passed away, you must either be a joint account holder, or an executor/administrator stated in either the will or issued by the probate court. Usually within the will, the deceased will have named an executor with the authority to manage their financial accounts post mortem.

However, if an executor has not been named, then an administrator must fill in the role. The administrator may be a relative or legal representative, and must file a request with the probate court in the area where the deceased had lived. The court will issue a Letter of Testamentary to the executor, or a Letter of Administration to the administrator. The Letter of Administration will take more time to receive, so to make matters easier it is recommended that an executor be named within the will. Once documentations are approved and authority is granted, you can then direct the bank on the disbursement of funds within the account.

To transfer money from the deceased’s account to yours or someone else’s, you’ll need to provide the bank with a routing and account number for electronic transferring. A named beneficiary of the account can also ask for a bank check paid directly to them. Depending on the bank account, the funds can also be disbursed differently. If the bank account is a payable-on-death (POD) account, the beneficiaries named within the account will receive the proceeds of the account directly, without ever having to go through the probate court. The account holder can obtain a POD account by filling out and submitting a form that the bank supplies.

If nothing happens to the bank account after the account owner’s death, the bank and state will contact living heirs to see if any actions are required. If nothing continues to happen, the bank account may then be considered abandoned property, and after a very long period of time, all funds and proceeds go straight to the state.

Closing credit card account(s) after a death

A death certificate and document proof of authority is also required to close the credit card account(s) of the deceased. In order to do this, the executor/administrator must contact the credit card company and speak with a customer service agent to inform them of the death. The agent will provide them with details on submitting a copy of the death certificate (often by fax or email). The company will then close the account upon receiving the death certificate. The total remaining credit upon the account will then be handled separately.

You can find out more information on outstanding debts of someone who died by reading our other article: Outstanding Debts After Death – What Happens to Debt When Someone Dies?