Blocking and unblocking bank accounts
As soon as it is notified of a deceased, the bank automatically blocks all bank accounts belonging to the deceased person, as well as all joint accounts that he or she may have had. Furthermore, if the deceased was married under the regime of community of property, the spouse’s accounts will also be frozen. Why such a measure? To make sure that no transaction can be made on the deceased’s accounts until the heirs are all identified.
Please note that it is not worth emptying the accounts before informing the bank of the decease. Indeed, even if the decease is reported a few days after it actually occurs, the banks have access to the previous status of the accounts. And what matters is the amount available on the account on the day prior to the decease, at midnight. If the banks or the tax administration realises that the accounts have been emptied in the meantime, in full or in parts, you may be liable to penalties.
To unblock the accounts, you simply have to provide the bank with an act or a certificate of heredity. Those documents have the same purpose, which is to compile a list of the deceased’s heirs. Nevertheless, obtaining a certificate of heredity is free (if your situation meets certain conditions) while you need to make an appointment with a notary to receive an act of heredity. Then, you will still have to wait a few weeks in order for the bank to do all the necessary checks before allowing the accounts to be unfrozen (checking, for example, that neither the deceased nor the heirs are subjected to tax liabilities).
Paying the bills in the meantime
While waiting for the bank to officially unblock the accounts using the certificate of heredity, the spouse or the legal partner still has access to a certain amount of money to handle urgent expenditures, namely half of the sums available on all blocked accounts, with a maximum of € 5,000.
What happens practically?
Once the accounts are blocked, it is not possible to withdraw cash from those accounts. However, it is still possible to transfer money on those accounts. Furthermore, the transfers planned before the decease but to be executed on a later date will also be made. The deceased’s bank cards will be deleted, while those of the partner will be temporarily inactive (until the accounts are unfrozen) and can only be used to check the status of the accounts.
How can I use this money to pay my bills?
Two options are available to you:
- The bank may, under some conditions, grant you a financial facility. This means that one account, under the sole name of the spouse or of the legal partner, is unblocked and that the amount granted is made available on it. It is usually the account where the person receives his or her salary or pension. The partner is thus allowed to use his or her debit card and, in some cases, credit card.
- Urgent expenditures are paid via one of the blocked accounts, without exceeding the maximal amount, as explained earlier. Payments are thus made by the bank. “Urgent expenditures” cover: funeral fees, last medical fees for the deceased or even expenditures linked with the deceased’s last residency.
While waiting for the accounts to be unfrozen and to keep receiving the money that actually belongs to you, such as your salary or your pension, you are allowed to open a new bank account under your name (which will not be blocked) and to ask for those sums to be transferred on this account so that you can use them freely.