Do I need a Grant of Probate to access and administer a deceased’s bank account?
Typically, when someone dies, banks and building societies freeze their accounts and someone else will need to take charge. In many cases, this will mean that the person authorised to do so needs to apply for a Grant of Probate.
Probate is the document that confirms that you are the authorised person to deal with the deceased’s property, money and possessions. You can use probate to show you have the right to access funds, sort out finances and distribute the assets correctly.
It is important to understand that the only funds that can be released from a deceased’s bank or building society account before probate is issued is to settle funeral expenses and inheritance tax (if any).
An executor is named in the will and it is this person who is entitled to apply for probate. If the deceased died without a will, then the law states who is entitled to apply for probate, known as an administrator. The executor or administrator (also called a personal representative) takes responsibility for dealing with the estate.
Probate may not be needed if the estate passes to the surviving spouse or civil partner because it was held jointly, or if there are certain assets that do not require probate for the asset to be transferred.
Despite high street banks have increasing how much they will release from the deceased’s account without probate being required, it does not mean that accounts should be automatically closed by presenting yourself at the bank. This raises numerous issues, a few of which are detailed below:
- The person who presents themselves at the bank with the death certificate may be the personal representative but it is possible they are not the person entitled to benefit from the estate. What is to stop a dishonest personal representative from simply ignoring the terms of the will or the law of intestacy and keeping the balance for themselves?
- There have been many instances where the person who provides the death certificate to the bank is not the personal representative, nor are they entitled to receive a share in the estate. The personal representatives then have to rely on this individual paying this sum to the estate so that it can be correctly distributed. This could result in matters becoming contentious if relations between the parties involved are not harmonious
- When the personal representative files the inheritance tax account they might believe that because the bank has already released the funds without probate that they do not have to be included. The personal representatives are therefore not delivering a true account and potentially not paying the correct inheritance tax
Where does the responsibility of the account being closed and paid out inaccurately lie? Is this amounting to fraud? Is tax revenue going to decrease as a result of inheritance tax accounts being incorrectly delivered? These are just a few examples and questions that personal representatives could find they have to answer following these seemingly helpful changes.
I am sure you will agree that it is vital to establish early on whether probate is required or not, to avoid any detrimental effect later down the line.
At GA Solicitors we tailor our services to your needs. We are able to offer a fixed fee Grant only service as well as providing the complete probate service. Our experienced and qualified staff at GA Solicitors will ensure that any complicated procedures are explained in simple terms, that no jargon is used that all work undertaken is to the highest professional standard.