How to Close Bank Accounts for the Deceased Without a Will or Probate

by Maggie Lourdes
Many accounts can be closed without probate court involvement.

Many accounts can be closed without probate court involvement.

Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images

You don't need wills or probate courts to close certain types of bank accounts when original title owners die. You can close joint accounts when your co-owner dies by simply presenting the bank with your driver’s license or other official identification. Accounts titled in trusts are closed by successor trustees when the original trustees die. A payable-on-death or POD account is closed by the account’s named beneficiary upon presentation of the original owner’s death certificate.

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Step 1

Contact the state's office for vital records or the county clerk where the deceased account owner died. Request a certified copy of the decedent's death certificate online, by mail, in person or by fax. Pay the applicable fee to obtain the death certificate.

Step 2

Present a certified death certificate where the deceased's account is located. Inform the bank you are either a trustee or POD beneficiary for the decedent's account. Provide a copy of the trust if you are closing an account titled in trust. Provide proper identification, such as a driver's license or passport, to establish your identity as either trustee or a named beneficiary on a POD account.

Step 3

Instruct the bank on how to disburse the account's funds. For example, trustees must distribute funds according to the terms of the trust; a POD beneficiary may request funds be made payable to himself in the form of a cashier's check. Keep all statements from the bank showing accounts were properly closed and disbursed.