What to do with a Deceased Person’s Bank Account
Closing a bank account is another task in a long list of tasks you may find yourself responsible for after losing a loved one. Handling and closing a deceased person’s bank account can help you settle the estate and prevent any fraudulent behavior from occurring, so it’s best to do it as soon as you can.
How to find bank accounts of a deceased parent
Locating bank accounts after someone dies is one of the many tasks you may be faced with handling. Here are some places to search through when trying to find out which bank accounts the decedent had open:
- Search through documents. If the decedent had stacks of mail or a specific place they kept important documents, searching through these documents for statements or contracts with different banking institutions will help you locate accounts.
- Search through emails. If you have access to the decedent’s emails, doing a quick search for bank statements or other emails from popular institutions can help you locate banking accounts.
- Contact the IRS. If you’re an executor of the estate, you can contact the IRS and request a copy of the decedent’s tax return, which may list banking information.
- Contact local institutions. If there are local credit unions or banking institutions you have a feeling the deceased used, you can bring in proper identification and a copy of the death certificate and request information on assets held by the deceased account owner.
- Use the FDIC’s BankFind Suite. The FDIC has a record of failed or merged institutions and the owners of the accounts at those institutions. To find out if the deceased had an account with one of these institutions, use the FDIC’s free BankFind Suite.
How to access the bank account of a deceased parent or spouse
To gain access to the bank account of a deceased parent or spouse, you’ll need a few important pieces of documentation and the authority to act on behalf of the deceased’s estate. A caveat to this is if you have a joint account with the deceased. If you’re the spouse of the deceased and have a joint account, you can access the account as you typically would. If you’re the child of the deceased but not an executor, you won’t be able to gain access to the account unless you provide the right documentation. Typically, banks require the following documentation to provide access to a deceased person’s bank account:
- A certified copy of the death certificate
- A copy of your identification
- A letter of appointment as executor from the court
- Payment distribution forms (typically provided by the bank)
Once you have these pieces of documentation, you can typically visit the bank in-person to schedule an appointment with an advisor or get in touch with them online to start the process. Meeting with an advisor can help you answer additional questions you may have (such as how to withdraw money from the bank after a death or closing the bank account of a deceased parent, for example).
How to close the bank accounts of the deceased without probate
There are a few bank accounts that do not need to go through probate in order to be closed. These account types include:
- Joint bank accounts. The surviving joint bank account holder can close the account (after transferring funds) by showing the bank required documentation and identification.
- Trust accounts. Trust accounts are typically closed by the successor trustees after the original trustee passes away.
- Payable-on-death (POD) accounts. POD accounts can be closed after the beneficiary receives the funds and the executor contacts the bank with the required information.
How to find out if you are a beneficiary on a bank account
If you’re trying to find out if you’re the beneficiary on a bank account, the process is quite simple. You’ll need to have a copy of the death certificate (and proper identification) before getting in touch. Once you have this documentation, simply contact the relevant banks and let them know a death has occurred and you’re attempting to find out if you’re the beneficiary on the bank account. The banks can tell you whether or not you were a listed beneficiary but are unable to share if there are other beneficiaries listed.
How to claim a deceased person’s bank accounts
If you were named as the POD beneficiary or beneficiary on a bank account, claiming the funds in the account is simple. You’ll need the following pieces of information:
- A driver’s license or state identification
- A certified copy of the death certificate Simply show up to the bank, present them with the requested pieces of information and let them know you’d like to claim the funds in a POD bank account. (You may have to sign a few forms or documentation they provide.)
What happens to a bank account when someone dies without a will?
Bank accounts with a listed beneficiary or Payable on Death (POD) designation will transfer all funds in the bank account after death to the designated beneficiary, even if they’re not designated as such in the will. This means that if there isn’t a will, the designated beneficiary will still receive the funds in the account.
If there is no will and no beneficiary listed on the bank account, then the responsibility over the account falls to the executor of the estate. The executor is responsible for handling the assets and funds in the account and will use the funds to pay off creditors and other bills as directed by the state’s probate laws. Afterwards, any leftover money is distributed according to the inheritance laws of that state and the executor is then responsible for closing the bank account after a death, even if there is no will.
Who notifies the bank when someone dies?
Banks are not automatically notified when an account-holder dies, so it’s typically up to the family or appointed executor of the estate to notify the bank of a death. If the executor of the estate or the family does not notify the bank of a death, there are two other ways a bank can find out that someone has passed:
- The bank account goes dormant after a period of time. When this happens, the bank will start the process of closing the bank account and transferring the remaining funds to the state. This only occurs if the bank account has remained dormant and unused and no administrators, executors, or next of kin have contacted the bank regarding the death of the account-holder.
- Social Security notifies the bank. Social Security will notify the bank of a death if they recognize that a Social Security payment was sent out after the date the deceased died. Social Security is typically alerted of a death by most funeral directors (or by the executor or family).
In either case, if you’re the executor of the estate or are trying to help reconcile the accounts of the decedent, it’s important to notify the relevant institutions of a death after someone passes away.
Relying on Social Security or the bank account going dormant can potentially lead you to missing out on important funds or delaying the process of closing the decedent’s accounts altogether.
Are bank accounts frozen upon death?
Bank accounts are not typically frozen after a death, unless a court order is issued or a request is made specifically by the courts to freeze the account. Some banks may freeze a single ownership bank account to prevent unauthorized users from making withdrawals, but this is not typically the case since the executor of the estate needs access to the bank account in order to settle the estate.
Are joint bank accounts frozen when someone dies?
Joint bank accounts are typically not frozen when someone dies and remain open and in use for the other account holder who still has access to the account. If the joint bank account is frozen after a death, you’ll need to get in touch with the bank to unfreeze the account.
Sample letter to close bank account of deceased
Many banks have templates or forms that you can fill out to close the bank account of someone who has died so it’s important to follow the instructions set forth by that specific institution. If they request that you send a letter and you’re in need of a template, you can alter this one to fit your needs.
To Whom It May Concern,
I, [Name], am the executor of [deceased's full name] estate and I am requesting immediate closure of all accounts listed for [deceased’s full name]. I request that any remaining funds in these accounts be sent to me by check to the following address:
I request that any future withdrawals or transactions from this account be refused.
Please assist me in closing the following accounts:
I have enclosed a certified copy of the death certificate, a copy of my identification as well as a copy of the certified letters of testamentary.
If you need anything from me or have any questions, please contact me by phone at [phone number] or by email at [email address].
[Your phone number]
[Your email address]
[Your mailing address]
Contact the bank
When you’re ready to get in touch with the bank, follow these simple steps.
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
- Notify Chase of the passing by calling the Client Service Center at 1-800-392-5749 option 1 or go to a local branch.
- Confirm that you can receive information related to the individual's assets. Only certain authorized individuals are able to receive information, such as beneficiaries and executors or estate administrators.
- Review Chase's account table to determine the type of account held by the deceased and identify the type of documentation that's required.
- Obtain the listed documentation and fax all documentation to 1-855-605-0487.
Bank of America Corp.
- Notify Bank of America of the passing. Once they're notified, you'll receive a case number and will have a specialist assigned to your case.
- Send a copy of the death certificate, plus any additional required documentation that your state law requires.
- The specialist will review the documentation and get back to you if any additional documentation is required.
- Once documentation is approved, account(s) can be opened and the funds can be transferred to existing accounts, or disbursed at your instructions.
You can also contact Estate Servicing at 888-689-4466 (Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-8 p.m. ET).
Documentation you'll need:
- Personal information. The full legal name and Social Security number of the decedent.
- Death certificate.
You may also need to provide:
- Small Estate Affidavit.
- Letters of Administration or Letters Testamentary.
Wells Fargo & Co.
- Get a death certificate and gather information (you’ll need to know the person’s full legal name and their social security number)
- Notify them in one of the following ways: Online (you’ll need a wells fargo username and password, unclear if this is your own account or if you need access to the deceased’s account).
By mail: Close or transition deposit accounts by sending a notarized Letter of Instruction
Wells Fargo Exception Payments
Attn: Estate Processing
7711 Plantation Road, 1st Floor
Roanoke, VA 24019
In person: Take the required documents to an in person appointment/
For investment accounts, take the documents to the customer’s dedicated financial advisor.
You need the following types of documents:
- Individual accounts
- Court-issued document appointing an executor/administrator or
- Small estate affidavit in accordance with state laws
Jointly-held accounts, or accounts with named beneficiaries
- Identification of the joint account holder or beneficiaries
- Certificate of Trust naming a successor trustee
If the deceased had a Citibank account, you can call 1-888-248-4226 for information. (Please note that this number is for Citi accounts only.)
- Visit a local branch or call 800-872-2657
Proof of death (Original or certified copies of the death certificate)
- Account information (examples: outstanding U.S. Bank bills, past statements or letters)
Documents that show who can act on behalf of the decedent's estate, trust or affairs. Examples:
- Probate documentation
- Small estate affidavit/Collection of personal property
- Executor paperwork
- Representative paperwork
- Letters of testamentary
- Trust documents
Additional documentation for home mortgage or loan accounts:
- Last will and testament
- Trust documents
You may also need:
- Valid ID (one of the following)
- State driver's license
- State ID card
- U.S. passport
- Military ID
- U.S. alien registration card
Truist Bank (SunTrust)
- Identify and cancel auto direct deposits or drafts that are scheduled for the account (such as paychecks, automatic payments, etc.)
- Get a letter of testamentary to show that you have the legal authority to act as the executor.
- Get certified copies of the death certificate
- Visit a Suntrust bank location in-person with the required documentation. You can schedule an appointment online.
- Organize disbursement details with the bank and transfer the funds.
- Make sure you receive documentation regarding this process.
PNC Financial Services Group Inc.
- Call customer service at 1 (888) 762-2265 and ask what kind of documentation is needed to close the bank account.
- Collect the required documentation (you will likely need a certified copy of the death certificate, documentation showing you are the executor or an authorized person in regards to the death, and proof of your own identity, such as a license)
- Write a letter of instruction to the bank notifying them of what to do with the funds in the account.
- Visit a PNC bank branch in person to close the account.
Capital One Financial Corp.
- Call 1-877-383-4802 between 9-11 EST to get a case number. You'll receive a cover sheet and a packet via email within a few days of making this call. Once you've received the case number and cover sheet, you can submit your documents through fax or email.
- Submit your documents.
Mail (fax or email is quickest):
PO Box 360
Wilmington, DE 19899
(Submit only copies, they will not return any originals to you.)
Note: When submitting documents, be sure to attach the cover sheet that was emailed to you. If you're submitting documentation via email, include the documentation as attachments and ensure the subject line includes the case number you were assigned.
For most estates, here's the documentation you’ll need to submit:
- A death certificate copy
- If you're an executor, a copy of a court-official 'Letter of Administration' or 'Letters of Testamentary', dated within the last 2 years
- Depending on your state guidelines, you may need just a notarized Small Estate Affidavit or an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property
- A copy of the Letter of Instruction for each beneficiary and/or executor
- Co-executors can send in a single Letter of Instruction, if they want to, must be signed by both parties
- A copy of a piece of government-issued identification for all executors and/or beneficiaries
- Gather account information regarding the bank account, such as: Account number, routing number, credit cards associated with the account, mortgages, and car loans.
- Contact customer service at 1 (800) 975-4722 to notify them of the death. (You may need the decedent's Social Security number and full legal name.) Request information on what steps need to be taken in order to close the account.
- Get a letter of testamentary to show that you have the legal authority to act as the executor.
- Get certified copies of the death certificate.
- Mail in the required documentation to HSBC at: ATTN: Legal Paper Processing, HSBC Bank USA, N.A.2929 Walden Ave Pole C84, Depew, NY 14043
- Make sure you document this process and request confirmation of account closure for your own documentation.
Citizens Financial Group
[Visit a local branch][(https://www.citizensbank.com/customer-service/branch-locator.aspx) for more information on how to notify the bank of a death and the required documentation for notification. You will likely need a certified copy of the death certificate.