Closing a Bank Account after Someone Dies
10 February 2020
When a loved one dies in England or Wales, their bank will need to be notified so that they can freeze their account then ultimately close it and release the funds. A legal document called a grant of representation may be required before the account can be closed, depending on how much money is in the account.
A Grant of Representation is not needed for joint bank accounts, as the funds will pass automatically to the surviving account holder.
Closing a Loved One’s Bank Account
If there is a Will, the Executor of the Will is usually responsible for closing the deceased's bank account. If there is not a valid Will or the Executors are unwilling to act, it should be done by the Administrator of the Estate, who is typically the main Beneficiary. For details see Executor and administrator duties explained.
Each bank and financial institution will want to see a copy of the Death Certificate and proof that you have the authority to freeze the bank account. This can be achieved by taking a copy of the will to show that you are an executor. Or if there is no Will, you can take evidence that demonstrates your relationship to the deceased.
Once the bank has been notified of the death, the account will be frozen. After this you will need to release the funds. The way in which you do this will depend upon how much money is being held.
Is a Grant of Representation Needed?
A grant of representation is a legal document, issued by the Probate Registry, which grants a named person legal authority to wind up a deceased person's affairs. This is sometimes required to deal with certain assets in the deceased person's estate.
If there's a Will then this document is called a grant of probate and if there is not a valid Will, it is called a grant of letters of administration. Both of these documents work in essentially the same way. If this document is needed, this is generally referred to as needing Probate.
Grant of Representation is the general term for either version of this document.
If there is a small amount of money in the account, the bank may release the funds immediately, without needing Probate. Each bank has their own threshold for Probate, which varies between £15,000 and £50,000, so you will need to check with the bank in question. We have put together a list of the main Bank Limits for Probate.
If the amount of money held with the bank exceeds their limit, they will want to see a Grant of Representation before releasing any money. This is because the bank has a responsibility to release the funds to the right person. If a mistake is made, the bank will be held accountable. The Grant of Representation verifies who is legally permitted to deal with the deceased person’s money.
It's worth noting that even if the amount of money is small, the bank may request a Grant of Probate anyway, particularly if the family situation is unclear or the Estate is complex.
How to Get a Grant of Representation
To obtain a Grant of Representation, the Executor or Administrator of the Estate will need to apply to the Probate Registry. There are a number of steps to go through, such as filling out the correct forms, valuing the Estate, calculating and paying Inheritance Tax along with any other tax that's due. Alternatively you can instruct our Probate Specialists to complete this on your behalf, along with the other legal, tax and administrative work involved in the Probate process.
With our Probate Complete Service we take full responsibility for obtaining Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (excl VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs.
It’s worth noting that even if the amount of money is small, the bank may request a Grant of Probate anyway, particularly if the family situation is unclear or the Estate is complex.