An estate administrator or executor must exercise many responsibilities after a person dies. Handling a deceased person’s bank account is one of the first duties involved in probate and estate administration.
What happens first
A bank or financial institution holding a deceased person’s account may freeze accounts held by one person after they are notified of that person’s death by their estate executor or next of kin. This is intended to stop additional transactions and protect any funds held within the estate. Joint accounts will continue to operate as before and only one signature will be needed for transactions in these accounts.
The deceased’s accounts will eventually close, but this may take time. Any credit card debt or personal loans must be repaid. Funds in those accounts should be paid to benefactors and the rest of the estate distributed in accordance with the instructions contained in the will.
Accessing estate accounts
Before an executor or administrator can access accounts, banks or financial institutions usually ask for an original or certified copies of the death certificate, a current will if it exists, and the deeds of any trusts held by the deceased. Depending on the estate’s value, a grant of probate for an existing will or a letter of administration could be required
After freezing accounts, banks will also produce a list of regular payments from the account to stop future debits or pay bills.
Unexpected expenses usually arise after a person dies. But it may take months for the administration of an estate and for funds to become available from a deceased’s accounts. The deceased person’s bank or financial institution, however, may agree to release funds early to pay for funeral costs and other estate expenses.
Executors, next of kin or an administrator can arrange these payments with the bank. They may usually request that existing payments continue from the bank accounts to pay for regular bills for the deceased’s property and other expenses.
Setting up an estate of the late transaction account is another option that allows an executor to access account funds to pay for estate expenses. Banks can also release funds to pay for the deceased’s business expenses if requested by the executor, next of kin, certain corporate officials, or a trustee.
Executors or administrators will have to contact the provider of any prepaid funerals or the companies holding a funeral bond or insurance. Otherwise, the executor or administrator must contact the bank to release frozen funds for funeral expenses.
Attorneys can help with estate planning that helps prevents later complications. Lawyers can also advise executors and administrators with their duties.