Whether you’re gathering materials to give your executor, or you’re a family member that needs to close out a loved one’s accounts, you’ll eventually need to contact the bank.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Do You Need to Include in a Letter to Close a Bank Account for a Deceased Loved One?
- Who Do You Send the Letter to?
- Sample Letter to Close the Bank Account of a Deceased Loved One
With the right forms and pieces of information, closing a deceased relative’s bank account is a fairly straightforward process.
Tip: The other aspects of handling a loved one's unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.
What Do You Need to Include in a Letter to Close a Bank Account for a Deceased Loved One?
Closing out a deceased relative’s bank account is just as important as canceling credit cards after a death. If these accounts are left open and unused, they become prime targets for hackers. While the process is straightforward, there are several pieces of information required for a bank account to proceed with the closing process.
Each process varies slightly depending on your circumstances, such as whether you’re the designated executor or if a will is absent. Consider each of these options and proceed with the choice that best relates to your specific situation.
You’re the designated executor
Carrying out executor duties such as closing bank accounts and credit cards becomes far simpler as a designated executor. If this is your situation, you’ll need to do the following:
Certified copy of death certificate
First, get a copy of the death certificate. For official business, you’ll want to obtain a certified copy. Some states require proof of executorship or proof of relationship in order to receive a certified copy.
This can be obtained by contacting your state’s office of vital statistics. Depending on your local office, you can apply for a certified copy in person, by mail, or online.
Letter of testamentary
The next step will be to file your loved one’s will with the probate court. This is necessary for the judge to provide you with a “letter of testamentary” which certifies you as your loved one’s executor.
This letter is a crucial piece of the puzzle banks will ask for to ensure that you are legally allowed to close the accounts in question.
At this point, you’ll want to gather other documentation including a copy of your identification, copies of your loved one’s social security card and bank statements, and account information.
Keep all copies of these documents located in a secure but accessible place, as you’ll need these for multiple transactions beyond the bank. It can be tricky to know how long to keep documents after a death, but in general, plan to keep all financial documents for a minimum of three years.
Once you’ve gathered the above documentation, you’re ready to contact the bank.
There is no designated executor
In situations when there is no executor, the next of kin is allowed to fill in for the role to handle end-of-life affairs. If this is your case, the process is similar to the steps taken above, with one exception.
Certified copy of death certificate
First, you obtain a certified copy of your loved one’s death certificate. This can be obtained through your state’s vital records office, provided you are next of kin.
While unofficial or uncertified copies can be obtained by nearly anyone, certified copies of the death certificate are routinely only provided to the next of kin or close relatives of the deceased.
Letter of testamentary application
Your next step is to notify probate court that there is no will and that you are applying as executor to handle the final affairs of your loved one.
The judge will grant you a letter of testamentary, giving you responsibility and rights as the executor of the estate.
At this point, you’ll need to gather up any documentation the bank may require such as proof of your identification, and a copy of their social security number and bank statements.
Now, you are ready to write your letter to close the account.
You’re a joint account holder
If you’re a joint account holder with the deceased, the process for closing the account is far simpler for most states. To close the account, you’ll simply need to write a letter asking the bank to close that specific account and sign it. No death certificates or other information is needed beyond your request for closure. The reason for the simplicity, in this case, is because, as a joint account holder, you are a legal owner of the account and can choose to close it at any time.
If your bank or state requires signatures from all account holders, you’ll need to obtain a certified copy of your loved one’s death certificate in place of their signature.
It’s important to close a loved one’s open account that’s no longer in use even if you’re a joint account holder. The reason for closure is so you can avoid the potential of someone hacking the account and using it without your knowledge.
If you’re an account holder and someone gets into the account, you’ll be fiscally responsible for all purchases and withdrawals. If you want to same some money for a rainy day, that’s okay, but be sure to keep it in an account that you actively use and keep track of. Accounts with no movement are prime targets for hackers who want to take advantage of money that might be lying around or an account no one is watching.
You’re the trustee of the account
If the bank account in question names you as the pay-on-death beneficiary, you’ll need to obtain the following for the release of funds and closure of the account:
- Certified copy of the death certificate
- Valid identification proving your are the trustee
Most banks require this information to be submitted in person to avoid fraud. Once you present the above documents at the bank, the funds will be released and the bank account closed. A letter requesting closure might be required and can be obtained during the same visit.
You hold power of attorney
It might come as a surprise, but if you had power of attorney and could use your loved one’s bank account to pay their bills while they were living, you won’t be able to close their accounts after they pass away.
Instead, you’ll need to hand this job over to the designated executor of the estate. If there is no executor, you can apply to probate court and become appointed as executor. Once appointed, you’ll need to gather all documentation listed above for those who are designated executors.
Who Do You Send the Letter to?
Bank accounts can be closed in a variety of ways including through the mail, in person, or online. Each method provided offers the same end result - closure of the account - though some are faster than others.
Many banks have an online forms section allowing you to fill out a closure request and attach needed documentation.
If this is the case, you will fill out the form and attach scanned or photographed pictures of your documents. After you submit your form, a customer service case will be opened. Expect to be contacted by the bank for confirmation and finalization of account closure.
If you’re sending a letter by mail, you’ll need to look up specific instructions for your preferred bank. Most have a specific address they want closure requests sent.
If you choose to take your letter to the bank branch in person, simply address the letter “To whom it may concern.” Once there, explain what you need and a bank branch manager or teller will help you complete the process. Even in person, providing a physical letter is desirable and often requested for bank documentation and proof of request.
Sample Letter to Close the Bank Account of a Deceased Loved One
While some banks have letter templates to close accounts, smaller banks may not. Check with the bank in question to clarify. Banks that offer templates often want you to submit the request using their specific forms to avoid any confusion. If you need a template, however, this will get you started.
November 15, 2020
To Whom It May Concern,
I, Jane A. Smith, am the executor of John P. Smith’s estate and I am requesting immediate closure of the accounts listed below for Mr. John. P. Smith. Please send any remaining funds by check to the address listed below and refuse any further requests for transactions on these accounts.
Checking Account Number: 1234567
Savings Account Number: 1234567
Other Account Number: 1234567
I am enclosing a certified copy of Mr. John P. Smith’s death certificate as well as my letter of testamentary and state identification.
Please contact me at the number below for any questions regarding this request and to confirm that the account has been closed.
Your printed name
Your mailing address
Your phone number
Handling End-of-Life Matters
Taking care of a loved one’s bank and credit card accounts is essential to ensure no fraudulent activity occurs after their death.
Bank accounts should never be left open and idle — especially if you’re a joint account holder. By closing these accounts, you ensure that the affairs of your loved one come to completion.