What happens to my loved one’s bank accounts when they die?


4 February 2021

By Marc Dorsett

What happens to my loved one's bank accounts when they die?

A personal representative (PR) is responsible for managing the estate of someone who has died and this includes notifying their bank of the death and providing the bank with the documentation they require. 

When attempting to identify all of the bank accounts owned at death, we would recommend checking the wallet or purse of the deceased, as this will often contain bank cards, which is a good starting point.  In addition, bank statements will also provide account and sort code information, which the PR can use to contact banks and building societies.  The PR should also examine the statements carefully as they can sometimes give indications of other accounts, for example where funds have been transferred out. 

A financial asset search can also be obtained, if the PR is not sure they have identified all of the assets the deceased owned. 

Once bank accounts have been identified, the PR will need to notify the relevant banks that the person has died and when doing so they will need to provide a death certificate. 

Some PR's will choose to contact each bank separately or there is the option to sign up to the Death Notification Service (https://www.deathnotificationservice.co.uk/). This service is free and will notify all the financial institutions at the same time. To use this service you will need to know the personal details of the person that has died, but not the details of the account numbers. 

Once the bank or building society has been notified, the accounts held with them will be frozen until they receive certain documents, such as probate and any direct debits will cease.  Each financial institution has its own requirements, but it is possible to close accounts with some institutions without probate. 

Once someone has died, it is illegal to take money from their bank account even before the bank has been notified. Even if you held a power of attorney for the deceased, it is still illegal to remove funds. The authority of the power of attorney, comes to an end when the individual dies. 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues