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

By Christine Funk, J.D.

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

By Christine Funk, J.D.

There are several situations wherein a bank account belonging to a deceased person can be closed even though the person hasn't left a will and without going through probate—the process of settling debts and distributing assets to the deceased's beneficiaries. These situations include:

  • A joint account where one of the owners passes away
  • Accounts titled in trust
  • Payable on death (POD) accounts

Two women talking at a desk

    While there are some steps that vary depending on the nature of the account, these are the main required steps for closing a bank account for a deceased person without a will or going through the probate process.

    1. Obtain a death certificate.

    Depending on where you live, you may be able to obtain a death certificate online. Otherwise, you may need to go to your county's Office of Vital Records or the county clerk's office to obtain the death certificate. In either case, you need a certified copy of the death certificate. Expect to pay a fee to obtain this copy.

    2. Gather other necessary documents.

    Before going to the bank to close the account, you need some additional information. Gather your identifying documents, specifically your driver's license or your passport. If you are closing an account titled in a trust of which you are the trustee, or manager, gather a copy of the trust document that gives you this authority.

    3. Go to the bank.

    Go to the bank and provide them with the necessary paperwork. In the case of a joint account where you are the surviving owner, present the death certificate and proper identification and ask that the deceased's name is taken off the account. In a situation where you are the trustee for a bank account held in trust, you need to present both the death certificate and a copy of the trust agreement along with proper identification. In the case of an account that is POD, you need the death certificate and proper identification.

    4. Provide details for payment.

    When you close an account, the funds must be disbursed. In a situation where you are a joint owner, you may be able to keep the account and simply remove the deceased person's name. Alternatively, you may be required to transfer the funds to a new account. In a case where you are the successor trustee, you must provide the bank with information on who the funds should be made payable to. You can accomplish this with a certified check or an electronic transfer to the beneficiary's bank account. If the account is POD, you can discuss your options with the bank. They may be willing to execute an electronic transfer or they may provide a certified check as payment.

    5. Maintain documentation.

    Ask the bank for documentation that establishes either that the account has been closed or, in the case of a joint account, the name of the deceased has been removed as an owner. If you are a successor trustee, make certain to procure proof of the account's closure for your records. Similarly, keep a copy of proof of the disbursement of funds. Finally, for POD accounts, it is still a good idea to keep a copy of proof of the closing of the account.

    If you are dealing with an estate that is not governed by a will or undergoing probate, it is a good idea to consult a trusts and estates attorney or an online service provider.

    This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.