When someone dies, his bank account remains open until the holding bank receives instructions to close it. Banks cannot close accounts of the deceased over the telephone. Account beneficiaries or estate administrators must visit the bank in person to close an account. When a joint account owner dies, the surviving account owner can keep the account open but should notify the bank of the death of the co-owner. Many account owners name pay-on-death beneficiaries on their accounts to enable their families or friends to easily liquidate their accounts after death.
Review the account information of the deceased. Read the bank statement to see if the deceased had a co-owner or pay-on-death beneficiary listed on the account. If you are named as the beneficiary, you can close the account without delay. If the deceased had a single ownership account with no named beneficiaries, you must provide the bank with letters of administration from the probate court naming you as the administrator.
Go to the bank. Provide the bank representative with an original copy of the certified death certificate and your government issued identification. If applicable, provide the banker with the letters of administration. Tell the banker to close the account. If you are not the administrator or pay-on-death beneficiary, you cannot close the account. The banker will contact the legal department to verify that the letters of administration are valid as written. Once the letters have been verified, ask the banker to make a cashier's or official check payable to you. Banks generally require people to take disbursements from accounts belonging to a deceased customer, in the form of a check so that they have a paper trail of the transaction.
Verify the amount of the check. Make sure that the banker printed your name correctly. Leave the bank. The banker will retain a copy of both the original death certificate and the letters of administration.
Social Security normally requires two weeks notice to discontinue benefit payments. If payments occur after the deceased dies, they must be repaid. Contact utility companies, phone providers and other vendors to notify them of the death and stop monthly charges from occurring after death. To prevent any withdrawals from occurring, provide the bank with a copy of the death certificate. The bank cannot close the account but it can freeze the account to prevent further charges from posting.
Many banks assess account inactivity fees if no withdrawals or deposits are made for an extended period, usually three months or more. If an estate goes through a lengthy probate process, funds may have been depleted by recurring fees by the time the court issues letters of administration.