What is a Deceased Account?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 September 2019
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A deceased account is any type of bank account that is owned by an individual or individuals who have recently passed away. Accounts of this type are usually closed to further transactions as soon as the bank is made aware of the customer’s death. The deceased account will remain in this status until the balances in the accounts can be made available to rightful heirs or released to an executor of the deceased party’s estate in order to disburse the funds in accordance with the wishes of the account owner.

Any bank account owned by a recently deceased customer can be converted into a deceased account. A checking account is the most common example of this type of frozen account. When the checking account is frozen, any bank card associated with the account is also immediately rendered useless and cannot be utilized to make any type of purchases or other transactions. In like manner, if the deceased also owned a savings account of any type, the balance in that account will be frozen, pending authorization from the court of jurisdiction to release those funds to an heir, beneficiary, or estate administrator. Should the deceased bank customer also own any type of money market account or had certificates of deposit through the bank, those are also frozen until the bank receives instructions from the courts to release the funds.


The idea behind temporarily freezing a deceased account is to make sure any wishes left in a last will and testament regarding the disposition of those assets is honored. Until the will is probated and the contents of that document are revealed, the account balances are held for safekeeping. In situations where no will was left behind, laws in place within that jurisdiction will determine who has a legal right to claim those assets. Courts will follow those rules, and provide the bank with authorization to release the funds to the individual that is determined to be the rightful heir.

Typically, banks are not at liberty to advise survivors on what to do regarding a deceased account. Instead, most bank officials will advise any survivor who believes they have a valid claim to the balance of the account to obtain legal assistance and work through the local court system. Courts will also often provide information on applicable laws regarding the disposition of deceased accounts upon request, although not every court will discuss the particulars of a pending disposition with people who have individual claims on those accounts.


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Post 2

@mrwormy- The way I understand it, the bank account of a recently deceased person would become a deceased bank account once the bank received official word of the account holder's death. If you had legal access to that account, you could probably still withdraw or transfer funds as a surviving account member. If your father had his own savings account, however, then the bank could freeze you or any other interested party out of it until the estate is settled in probate court or the will is executed.

I think the situation you described with a surviving account holder would be the same as a husband and wife having a joint account. If the husband dies, the wife still has access to those funds. If your name is listed on checks drawn on that account, you're still an account holder yourself.

Post 1

My elderly father and I have a shared checking account, mostly because I act as his bookkeeper these days. When he passes away, would it automatically become a deceased bank account, or would I still be able to access it myself? The way I read this article, the account would still belong to anyone else listed on it. A deceased bank account involves a single account holder, right?

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