A will explains how people want their belongings to be transferred. When a person dies without a will, a probate court will search for legally valid heirs (children, grandchildren, parents, siblings). It is not easy to close a bank account for a deceased person if you are not a legal heir and there is no will, but it can be done.
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Gather documents that identify your parent-child relationship with the deceased, for example a birth certificate. Schedule an appointment to speak with the bank manager and present the death certificate. If the bank account has no funds and is not overdrawn, the manager might freeze the account or place a hold to prevent unauthorised charges.
Contact the trustee of the person's estate. Some people create a trust while they are alive to handle their affairs, including paying their expenses. The trustee usually has power of attorney and can close the bank account.
File a petition with a local probate court and request that you be named administrator of the person's estate because there is no will. As the executor, you would be responsible for closing bank accounts and satisfying outstanding debts.
Consult with an attorney who handles estate planning, particularly if the accounts hold significant amounts. While you might be able to close the account by simply proving that the person has died, most banks will not immediately hand over the funds.
Contact your state treasurer's office for information about unclaimed property. If a person had an account and the bank lost contact with the owner, the state will receive the assets as unclaimed property.
Tips and warnings
- You can usually get certified death certificates from the vital record office in the state where the deceased died. Unless you have a court order or you are a family member, you may not be able to obtain a person's death certificate.
- Regardless of your age, income, or assets, prepare a will. If no heirs exist under your state's laws (stepchildren, uncles, aunts typically are not legal heirs), then your belongings become state property.
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