What happens to a joint account when someone dies?

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Dealing with finances after the death of a loved one can be hard. 

When someone dies, there are a few things you'll need to do to make sure all bank accounts and finances are sorted.

You'll need a death certificate 

You need to register the death of a loved one to get a death certificate because you'll need a death certificate to access their bank accounts. The government's website, www.gov.uk/register-a-death is a good place for everything you might need to know on this. It's important to ask for a few copies of a death certificate. You might need extra original copies as many organisations will ask for the original copy.

Apply for a 'grant of probate'

A 'grant of probate is the process that legally allows you to deal with a loved one's finances. 

If the person who has died left a will, there will be an executor in charge of handling everything. They'll have access to the death certificate and they can then apply for a probate. If there's no will, the process for a probate is the same, but instead of a 'grant of probate', you'll get 'letters of administration'.

Applying for a 'grant of probate' or 'letters of administration' is important because without one you won't be able to access any bank accounts unless you're a joint account holder.

Inheritance tax might be owed

The estate of the person who has passed away will pay any inheritance tax that is owed to HMRC. It's usually due six months after death, however, it's up to the executer to estimate the value of the estate and then to contact HMRC to see if inheritance tax is definitely owed.

If inheritance is left to a civil partner or spouse, inheritance tax won't be charged. 

Get in touch with banks, building societies and insurers of the death 

Bank accounts are kept opened until all money is taken out of them but direct debits and standing orders, will most likely be cancelled. If you're the executor, you're in charge of withdrawing money and distributing to people according to the will, which a solicitor can help with. It's important to get in touch with the bank or building society which the bank account is with, as these processes vary depending on the bank.

What happens to a joint account when someone dies?

If you are a holder of a joint account that's a current account, you can withdraw money from the account. It's illegal to do this if you're not named on the joint account until you've applied for and received the grant of probate. 

Any debt that has been taken out on a joint account and in a joint name, will automatically be the responsibility of the person left on the joint account. This can be an overdraft or an amount that's owed on a credit agreement.

Direct debits taken out in the sole name of the person who has passed away will need to be cancelled, as well as standing orders. Usually your bank will give you the details of any direct debits or standing orders so it's up to the surviving account holder what changes are made.

If you held a joint account that was a savings account, the name will be changed to just your own and everything left in the joint savings account will be yours. It's important to check with your bank how this specifically works. Most banks and building societies will allow you to choose if you want to close the account.

If you're looking for a joint account, find out more about Monzo's joint accounts.