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How to freeze a deceased's bank account

Updated March 23, 2017

Banks must be informed in a timely manner of the death of an account holder. If the money is not claimed promptly, it could go into a public unclaimed money fund. If the bank account was owned jointly, the surviving spouse may present the death certificate to an accounts officer at the bank. Only the executor of the will can freeze a bank account belonging to a deceased individual account owner.

Visit the bank to determine the status of the bank account. If the bank account was owned jointly, the surviving spouse may take on sole ownership if he presents the death certificate to the bank promptly after it has been issued. Individually owned accounts can only be legally closed by the executor of the will.who has legal responsibility for all the affairs of the estate. The will stipulates how the funds in the account are to be distributed.

Bring the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee issued by the probate court to the bank if the account is individually held. The executor must also present valid identification proving that he is the proper possessor of the certificate. Once an account officer verifies that the certificate is valid, the executor will be able to close the account and distribute the funds as the will states. Any existing debts of the estate must be paid before the will is executed. The chief exceptions to this are funeral costs. Money may be withdrawn from the accounts of the deceased to cover all funeral costs.

Distribute the funds in the account according to the will. The executor has fiduciary responsibility to the estate. If the estate's heirs can determine that the executor acted contrary to the stipulations or even the perceived intention of the will, the executor may be liable for damages.

Close the account once the funds have been properly distributed to the estate. The executor may not maintain the bank account of the deceased for personal use or for any other reason.

Things You'll Need

  • Death certificate
  • Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (for individual accounts)
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About the Author

John Hewitt began freelancing in 2008, writing about subjects ranging from music to stock trading, the energy industry and business. His ghostwritten work has appeared all over the Web. He attended New York University, pursuing a bachelor's degree in history.