This Which? survey highlights a long running issue that families face when dealing with banks and building societies after a death.

Each bank and building society will have its own internal procedure to close a deceased's account, although most follow a common process. Despite what should be a straightforward process, families can run into trouble from the outset by visiting the local bank branch. Bank staff are often not trained to deal with bereavement cases. As a result incorrect advice may be given out to families about the documentation needed to deal with a deceased's account, or the wrong process is implemented by the bank staff, resulting in delays and frustration for the families.

So what are the options to try and avoid the delays, and what are the key points to remember when dealing with banks and building societies following a death?

  • Rather than visit the local branch contact the bank/building societies dedicated bereavement team. Almost all bank and building societies have dedicated teams and their contact details will be available online.
  • Most bank and building societies will release funds below a certain level without the need to see a Grant of Probate. If the bank will release funds without a Grant of Probate it should mean the family being able to access funds within a matter of days as opposed to having to wait a number of months to obtain the Grant of Probate. Each organisation threshold differs – typically most will release funds without sight of a Grant of Probate if the total amount that the deceased held across their accounts was below £20,000. However, some organisations have a much higher threshold (in some cases up to £50,000). Before contacting the bank or building society it is worth checking online to see what their threshold is for releasing funds without a Grant of Probate.
  • Even if the bank insists on seeing a Grant of Probate before closing the account down the majority will still pay funeral costs and inheritance tax from a frozen account, so those expenses can be settled without having to wait for the Grant of Probate.