Closing down a bank account after a death

Closing down the bank account of a friend or a family member

If you’re trying to close down a deceased person’s bank account, bear in mind that banks tend to be quite sensitive to these situations, so try not to worry about approaching them and asking them to close an account after a death.

Here are the steps to take and documents you’ll need. If you need more support, it’s worth getting a friend or family member to help you handle things. Even the simplest tasks can be challenging while grieving.

Who to notify when someone dies

Once you’ve registered the death and taken care of any preliminary paperwork which can’t wait, the next thing you need to sort are utilities and services, such as mobile providers. To settle and close these accounts, you’ll need to talk to each of the separate service providers.

The deceased person is likely to have ongoing standing orders and direct debits, so it’s best to notify these organisations of the death as soon as possible to avoid receiving letters demanding outstanding payments.

You should also let the deceased person’s bank know. This means that the bank can stop any communications, as well as freezing the account – and stopping any standing orders or direct debits.

When you’ve notified the bank, they can let you know what the next steps will be and which other documentation they might need. Some of this documentation often relates to whether or not the deceased made a will.

The bank is likely to ask for two forms of your identification (usually a passport or driver’s licence, or a proof of address with a utility bill) and a copy of the will. If there’s no will, the bank could ask for evidence of your relationship to the deceased.

You’ll also need the death certificate. When you’ve registered the death, you will be issued with a death certificate. This will act as formal notification for the bank to begin closing the account.

How to legally access the money in a deceased person’s bank accounts

The deceased’s money may form part of their estate, and can be used to cover any outstanding debts and taxes. In order to start this process, the bank may require a Grant of Representation before the funds are released.

If you are given a Grant of Representation, this confirms that you are legally allowed to take care of the deceased’s estate and financial affairs. ‘Grant of Representation’ tends to be a catch-all term for more specific documents, including Grant of Probate.

Some banks may release the money immediately – each bank has their own threshold, which can be between £15,000 and £50,000. However, most will want to see a Grant of Probate first, even if there is very little money in the account. This document verifies who is legally permitted to deal with the money in the bank account.

Even if you’re waiting for the Grant of Probate to access the money in the account, many banks may let you use the money in the deceased person’s account to pay for expenses relating to the death – these can include:

How do I get a Grant of Probate?

To get this document, the executor of the will needs to apply to the Probate Registry. This can be a long process; steps include:

  • Filling out forms correctly
  • Settling any outstanding tax
  • Going to a Probate Registry office for an interview
  • Swearing an oath to confirm your identity

You can also ask a solicitor to take these steps on your behalf.

When you’ve successfully applied and you’ve received the Grant of Probate, take it to the bank. The bank may then be able to start the process of releasing the funds.

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