When someone in Ireland dies, it is usual for their bank account to be frozen once the bank is informed of the death. While this is a reasonable course of action from the banks’ viewpoint, managing a deceased person’s bank accounts can cause additional distress and inconvenience at an already difficult time.
The most practical way to avoid this situation is to ensure that key bank accounts of older people are joint accounts. This is because joint bank accounts are not frozen even in the event that one of the parties dies: the surviving account holder can continue to operate the account.
Often a bereaved person may need to get access to some of the deceased person’s money to pay for funeral expenses. Many banks have arrangements in place to help pay for funeral expenses from the deceased person’s account (you should contact the bank directly to find out more). It may also transpire for example, that a dependent spouse/civil partner or children may need to get access for living expenses, at least until a social welfare payment is awarded.
If money in the bank/building society is in the deceased’s name only, then you usually cannot get access to it until probate is taken out. If the amount of money is small, the financial institution may release it provided the personal representatives or the next of kin sign an indemnity form. In effect, this is a guarantee that the bank/building society will not be at a loss if there are other claims on the money.
What happens to deceased person’s bank account ?
If the account is only in the name of the deceased person, the account will be frozen from the date that the bank is notified of the death. This means any standing orders or direct debits will be returned unpaid. Closing a bank account does not cancel a direct debit. Family members will need to contact all direct debit originators linked to the bank account. If the account is in joint names, in most cases the surviving account holder can continue to operate the account after the joint account holder has died. When the bank receives a certified copy of the proof of death, they will remove the name of the person who has died from the account name, bank statement, bank card and chequebook. Standing orders and direct debits will continue as before.
Can family members access funds to pay for funeral and related expenses ?
Yes, most banks have arrangements in place to facilitate this. The bank will need a certified copy of the proof of death e.g. Death Certificate/ (Interim) Coroner’s Certificate, or confirmation from a Medical Practitioner. Also, family will need to complete a Payment Authorisation Form for Executors/ Administrators – the bank will provide you with this form releasing funds for other expenses relating to the funeral. You can also normally pay for other funeral expenses like, refreshments, flowers or memorial cards, from the account of the person who has died up to a limit of €24,999.
If there are one or more savings/deposit accounts with a combined date of death balance of greater than €50,000 held in joint names by parties other than a Married Couple/ Registered Civil Partners, the bank will normally freeze the joint savings/deposit account(s) so that no more money can be paid from the account.
Banks’ common commitment of care for bereaved customers
The Irish Banking Culture Board (IBCB) has brought its five member banks together to establish a common commitment of care for bereaved customers.
All five IBCB member banks: Allied Irish Banks (AIB), Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank Ireland, Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank have signed up to the commitment. Collectively, these five banks assist circa 50,000 bereaved customers per annum, making this an issue impacting thousands of people and their families every year.
The commitment of care includes: a dedicated phone line in each bank for bereaved customers and access to any available funds of the deceased to cover the cost of the funeral. The banks are also committed to using plain English, making information on services available easily accessible, and suppressing marketing materials addressed to the deceased as quickly as possible. The five banks’ helpline are listed below:
AIB: 01 641 5182
BOI: 01 460 6333
KBC: 01 664 6896
PTSB: 01 212 4077
Ulster Bank: 1800 303 543