Finances aren’t at the top of most people’s minds when they lose a spouse. They must go through a grieving process and come to understand that life will never be the same. It’s important to lean on any help you can, not just with finances but also in other areas of your life. Spouses heavily commit themselves to each other, and while that mutual commitment comes in many forms, it’s possible you may have created a joint bank account with your spouse. If you’re wondering what will happen to that account, don’t worry. Here are some things to keep in mind if you have a joint bank account with a deceased spouse.
Why it’s important to remove a deceased individual from a bank account
You don’t have to remove a deceased spouse from a joint bank account, and your account will function normally. But many banks advise their clients to remove their spouse’s name from their bank accounts when the time arrives. This is because of security protocols. And if someone writes a check payable to your deceased spouse, you cannot deposit the check. Someone may accidentally write a check to your deceased spouse if they see both of your names on the bank account.
How to remove a deceased spouse from a bank account
This isn’t the first thing you should do upon losing a loved one. But after giving yourself some time, here are the steps you can take to remove a deceased spouse from a bank account.
Step 1: Locate and gather the necessary documents
Banks have different requirements for which documents you need. It’s best to contact your bank and have a representative guide you. You can also look for the list of documents on the bank’s website, but receiving help can alleviate stress. Some banks can proceed if you provide them with the following documents:
- Death certificate
- The original account agreement
- A copy of the will
- Power of attorney
You can get a copy of a death certificate at the funeral home or by contacting a vital records office.
Step 2: Notify the bank of the deceased
You cannot manually remove someone from a joint bank account. You will have to inform the bank of your spouse’s death. The bank may ask for the name of the deceased spouse, the person’s birth date, and the relationship between the deceased and the survivor.
Step 3: Inquire about removing the deceased from the bank account
Each bank has a different process for removing a deceased spouse from a joint bank account. It will ask for the necessary documents. You will also have to sign a document confirming that you want to remove your partner’s name from the joint bank account. You should also have your personal ID ready, as the bank will want to know it is talking to the other account holder.
Step 4: Complete the relevant paperwork
You must sign the document the bank provides that confirms you want to proceed with this change. The bank cannot remove your spouse’s name from the joint bank account unless you complete this step.
Step 5: Change the ownership of the bank account
What happens in this step depends on the bank and the status of your account. A joint account with right of survivorship goes to the surviving individual(s) listed on the account. This joint account remains intact, and people on the account continue to share the funds. In some cases, the bank will guide you to reopen a new account under your name and move the funds out of a joint account. In other cases, the joint account will get updated to reflect the change in ownership. You won’t have to delete the joint account in this scenario or do anything else.
Step 6: Close the old account
If you have opened a new bank account and transferred the funds from your old joint account, you will have to close the joint account. A representative can guide you through this process and let you know what you have to do. If you are not the only surviving person in the joint bank account, you will also need the other person’s permission to close the account.
Step 7: Follow up and monitor your new account
When talking with representatives, ask them how long the process will take. This will give you a timeline of what to expect, and you can monitor your account activity to see whether everything is on schedule or whether there is a delay. You may want to check in with your bank if there is a delay and ask whether it needs additional information from you to finalize the process.
Adjusting Your Joint Bank Account
Removing a deceased individual from a joint bank account can be a sad experience. It’s not the first thing you would think to do, and it makes sense to take a step back from work during the grieving cycle. When you are ready to modify your bank account setup, call your financial institution. A helpful representative can guide you through the process and make it more seamless.
Do banks freeze bank accounts when someone dies?
Banks freeze individual accounts when someone dies. They freeze some joint accounts, but this usually happens if no one notifies the bank about the deceased person’s death.
Does your estate automatically go to your spouse?
A will determines how your estate gets split up, but a joint account’s right of survivorship can take precedence for the funds in that account. You should review your documents and talk with a legal professional.
Can I use my husband’s bank account after he dies?
You cannot use your husband’s bank account after he dies. The bank freezes someone’s individual bank account upon learning about their death. The funds then get dispersed to heirs based on the will.