How long do banks take to release money after probate?
08 September 2021
If probate is needed to close the bank account of someone who has died, then the bank won't release the money until they have the grant of probate. Once the bank has all the necessary documents, the money will usually be released within 10 to 15 working days.
All banks have their own threshold for how much money they can release from an account without a grant of probate. For more information on these thresholds, see bank limits for probate.
Notifying the bank of the death
When someone dies in England or Wales, their bank and any other financial institutions will need to be notified that the account holder has died. This becomes the responsibility of an executor (if there is a will) or the administrator if there isn't a will. See executor and administrator duties explained.
The bank will need to be provided with an original or certified copy of the death certificate. This will allow them to freeze the account, stopping any future direct debit or standing order payments from being made. Some banks will be able to provide a list of all accounts held with them in the name of the deceased, along with the balance of these accounts at the date of the death.
Is probate needed?
Sometimes a grant of probate will be needed before the bank will close the account and release the money. Each bank has its own threshold for how much money they will release without a grant of probate. This can vary significantly between banks, so you’ll need to check with the bank in question what their threshold is to find out whether a grant of probate will be needed.
For more information, see bank limits for probate.
Closing bank accounts and releasing funds
Each bank will have its own requirements for closing the account. The bank will tell you which documents they need from you to close the account and release the money.
Any joint bank accounts will be moved into the sole name of the surviving account holder, and the contents of this account will become their sole property. New bank cards may be issued at this point, dependent on the bank’s policies.
For accounts held in the deceased’s sole name, if the balance is below the bank’s threshold and a Grant of Probate is not required, the bank may agree to release the funds after seeing the death certificate, a copy of the will (if there is one) and identification of the executor or administrator.
All banks and financial institutions have a legal duty to protect their customers. This includes protecting the financial information of the deceased customer. If the bank doesn't need a grant of probate, they may still ask the executor or administrator of the estate to sign an indemnity. The purpose of the indemnity is to protect the bank if it later turns out that the money has been paid to the wrong person.
If a grant of probate is needed
If a grant of probate is needed, the bank generally won't release the money until they have received this. That said, they may still be able to release some funds in the meantime to cover the cost of the funeral or to pay an Inheritance Tax bill. Subject to certain conditions, banks or building societies can release money to pay for a funeral or Inheritance Tax bill, as long as there's enough money in the account.
Once you have the grant of probate, a court sealed copy needs to be sent to each financial institution along with the completed closure form and the death certificate (either an original or certified copy). The bank may also ask for additional ID, such as copy of your bank statement or a utility bill.
Releasing the funds
If any documents are incomplete or missing, this can cause delays. It's always worth double checking before sending back any documents to banks or other financial institutions.
Once the bank has received all the paperwork and they have offset any accounts where the balance is in debit, they can then release the money. The funds will usually be released in the name of the 'estate of the late' individual within 10 to 15 working days after they've received the paperwork.
The quickest way to receive funds is by a direct transfer within the same bank. You should allow additional time for transfers into an account held with a different bank or for cheque payments.