What happens when the account holder passes away? May we have access to the funds after the holder’s decease?

When one of our loved ones passes away, all of a sudden we see ourselves having to organise their last will, their finances, and even, what will the money in their bank account be destined for. 

If we are the heirs, we will obviously be interested in obtaining information about such bank accounts (transactions, debits, etc.), or in allocating the balance. In such difficult moments it’s normal to have all sorts of doubts.

 May we have access to the funds after the holder’s decease? Who may do it? How? It will depend on the type of bank account

  • If the deceased was the only account holder, authorisation of all the heirs will be required.
  • If it’s a joint account, the remaining co-holders will not have access to the funds when one of them passes away, unless there is express consent from all the deceased’s heirs.
  • If it’s a separate account, the remaining co-holder will continue having access to the funds after the other one passes away.

In any case, before making the funds available, credit institutions may request the heirs proof of having paid the Inheritance Tax or of being exempt of its payment, in order to safeguard its subsidiary liability. The bank cannot block the total balance on the account, but it may hold the necessary amount in order to pay the tax.

And what about the authorised third parties on the account?

Their authorisation terminates with the holder’s decease, which means they will no longer have access to the funds.

May a bank block the account?

In certain cases, it may. It may either occur because it’s been established on the contract or due to disagreements between the remaining co-holders and the deceased co-holder’s heirs. In any case, the bank must inform all the interested parties beforehand of its intention to block the account.

Can the account continue to receive debits once the holder passes away?

Yes, it can, unless the heirs have given specific instructions not allowing them, and only if the debits correspond to transactions the deceased holder had authorised while still alive and are related with the maintenance of the inheritance. These would be, for example, electricity bills, phone bills, taxes, insurances, funeral expenses, etc., which, if returned, would produce unnecessary surcharges and inconveniences.

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