What happens to bank accounts when someone dies?

In the case of a joint bank account, when one of the account holders dies, control of the account automatically goes to the other individual on the account. Joint accounts are quite popular with business partners and spouses. The bank usually requires that the surviving person on the account show proof that the deceased passed away, such as a copy of the death certificate. If any debit cards or other cards were associated with the account, the names on those cards are immediately changed. According to law, the bank must transfer the account holdings into the other member’s name. The bank also must change the names on the cards. In addition, the bank is required to change the official title on the account, which requires the removal of the deceased’s name and any personal information about that person.

Trust Accounts

A trust account is a type of bank account that’s usually identified in the deceased’s will or estate records. A trust states that a portion of the person’s estate and financial holdings go to another individual on a specific basis. The deceased may have specified that the money go toward paying educational expenses or that a beneficiary receive weekly or monthly payments. Money in a trust also may go to an individual once she reaches a specific age.

When an individual who has had a trust account in his own name dies, this money goes to the next of kin. The person accepting the money must show the relationship to the bank holding the trust and prove that the person died. The bank then transfers that account into the other person’s name.

Single Accounts

Single accounts are bank accounts with only one name on them. For example, a divorced man may have his own checking or savings account. There are also situations where a married couple has separate and individual bank accounts in their own names. When a person on a single account dies, the law states that the money in that account goes to the closest living relative or next of kin. An exception to this rule is when the will or estate of the individual designates that the money should go to someone else. The person claiming the money must offer proof of the account holder’s death with a death certificate or other form of notification. The survivor also must prove her relationship to the deceased or her entitlement to the money and account, such as through a birth certificate or copy of the will.

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About the Author

Jennifer Eblin has been a full-time freelance writer since 2006. Her work has appeared on several websites, including Tool Box Tales and Zonder. Eblin received a master's degree in historic preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design.