Fee for handling probate services
Probate proceedings are proceedings initiated by the institution at the request of heirs following the death of a customer. This formality is necessary to access the funds deposited or to change the ownership of the products and may give rise to the so-called probate services fee, provided that the fee is duly justified and has been communicated. The institution may charge this fee when it guides the heirs as to the documentation or procedures necessary to access the funds, providing a service similar to that of an external professional. To this end, the heirs must be previously informed of the fee to be charged by the institution and accept this service. However, the fee can only be charged once the proceedings have been finalised.
In many cases, however, the heirs themselves collect the necessary documentation on their own or by using external professionals such as a notary, lawyer or administrative agency. Thus, once submitted, the institution merely carries out a simple verification that legitimises them so that they can exercise their rights. Once this verification has been carried out, it must also provide at least one way for the heirs to access the funds free of charge (transfer, cash, cheque, etc.).
This verification (official acceptance) is an activity that the institution carries out as part of its duty of diligence and which, in itself, does not constitute the provision of a banking service to customers. Consequently, the charging of the fee would not be justified.
In short, the charging of a probate service fee by credit institutions may be contrary to banking transparency regulations in those cases in which the institution's actions are limited to the mere verification of the documentation provided for processing the inheritance, the beneficiaries themselves having carried out –on their own or with the temporary involvement of legal professionals hired by them– all the inheritance formalities.