There are many things to deal with if you’re responsible for administering an estate. Before you can carry out the wishes the deceased outlined in their will or distribute the estate, you may need to get a grant of probate.
However, even if you need to get probate to administer the wider estate, you won’t necessarily need it to access the deceased’s bank account.
The rest of this guide will deal with this issue. If you want to know more about probate in general, read the below articles:
- What is probate?
- How to apply for probate if the deceased left a will
- How to apply for probate if the deceased didn’t leave a will
Can you access joint bank accounts without probate?
This is one of the more straightforward issues when dealing with an estate and questions around getting probate.
If your partner dies, all assets you jointly owned, like your house and any bank accounts, immediately become 100% yours.
Regardless of how much cash is in the joint bank account, you’d be able to access this and use it as you usually would. Of course, you should still inform the bank and the land registry of your partner’s death so that all assets become held solely in your name. However, in terms of having access to a bank account in the immediate aftermath of their death, this won’t be a problem.
Accessing the bank or building society account of a sole account holder
This is where the question of whether you need probate comes more into focus.
Unfortunately, the answer is, “it depends,” but finding the answer you need isn’t usually that difficult.
Why does it depend? Well, each bank and building society has its own rules and procedures for releasing cash to the executor or administrator of an estate. So, you’ll need to follow these.
It’s worth noting that you’ll generally not “get access” to the deceased’s bank account but instead be able to transfer the cash to a nominated bank account. This may need to be an “executor account,” depending on a particular institution’s rules and procedures.
How do the banks and building societies differ?
Typically, banks and building societies will transfer cash from the deceased’s bank, providing it is below a certain threshold. These thresholds differ from £5,000 up to £50,000. You’ll discover what it is when you call the respective institution’s bereavement team to report the death.
Most banks and building societies base their threshold on the amount held in the account. However, some may base it on the estate’s total value.
If the value of the bank account or estate exceeds the threshold, you’ll need a grant of probate to get the cash transferred to you.
How long will it take to get the cash if I don’t need probate?
It can still take some time to transfer the deceased’s cash if you don’t need probate. You’ll still need to provide a death certificate and identification to the bank or building society to show that you’re the executor or are applying for probate if there isn’t a will.
In addition, if the deceased didn’t have a funeral plan, their bank or building society will hold the cash until you can demonstrate that funeral expenses have been paid. If you’re able to get an invoice from the funeral director, you can take this to the bank or building society for payment, after which you’ll be able to have the funds transferred to your nominated bank account.
How long will it take to get the cash if I need to get probate?
From the bank or building society’s perspective, they should be able to transfer the cash to you pretty quickly once you have a grant of probate. Depending on their procedures, you may need to open an executor’s account, which you won’t be able to do until you have probate. However, you can open these pretty quickly via an in-branch appointment, after which you can request a transfer of funds to you.
It can take up to eight weeks to get a grant of probate, irrespective of whether the deceased left a will. Remember to keep this timeframe in mind when speaking to parties to whom the deceased owed money or to businesses like utility providers about final bills.
What can I do with cash from the deceased’s bank account?
If you’re the executor or personal representative of the deceased, you should first use the cash to settle the deceased’s affairs. This might include:
- Paying final council tax bills
- Paying any tax that is due
- Repaying pension overpayments
- Paying final utility bills
Of course, as you cancel things like insurance policies, you might find that you have money coming back to you. Depending on the business or organisation you’re dealing with, these monies might come back addressed to you and with cheques made out in your name. However, you should bank these cheques and have anything paid electronically either into an executor’s account or another bank account you have opened specifically for dealing with the estate. You must keep the deceased’s assets separate from your own while settling an estate, even if the deceased was a parent, and you’ll ultimately be the sole inheritor.
Once you have settled the deceased’s affairs, you can split the money according to the instructions in the will or per the rules of intestacy if there isn’t a will.
If you need a grant of probate, we can help
Valuing an estate for inheritance tax and probate can be challenging and time-consuming, especially if the deceased left a complex estate and instructions in their will. It’s also something that you may find too stressful to undertake following the death of a loved one.
If you need help with any element of the probate process, LawPlus can help.
Contact us here to discuss your needs and get started.