Frozen bank accounts after death
In Belgium, when a bank becomes aware that a person has died, the bank accounts of the deceased, their spouse and also any account on which the deceased was a co-signatory (e.g. a joint account) are frozen. The account could be frozen just hours after the death. In some cases, the account is frozen for a few days. Do not rush to notify the bank.
After freezing the accounts, the bank will send a summary of the deceased’s assets at the time of death to the tax authorities.
In Belgium, unfreezing bank accounts is part of the formalities after death.
Cover urgent expenses after a bank account freeze
In order to meet urgent household expenses, the spouse or legal cohabitant may dispose of half of the sums in all the deceased's bank accounts, with a ceiling set at a maximum of €5,000, all banks combined.
To have access to this money, you must apply directly to the bank, which will make the money available to you in a non-blocked account.
Be careful not to exceed the €5,000 limit! Beyond this amount, you expose yourself to financial penalties. It is considered that by exceeding this ceiling, you are deemed to have accepted the estate, regardless of the state (e.g. if there are more debts than assets, you will take over the debts at your expense).
In the case of a marriage under the regime of separation of property, the spouse can have his or her personal accounts unfrozen by simply presenting the original marriage contract to the bank. These accounts will not form part of the inheritance.
How can you get bank accounts unfrozen after a death?
Regardless of the marital situation, the bank will only release the deceased's bank accounts when it has proof of filiation and the agreement of all the heirs.
In order to unblock the accounts, you must must obtain a notarial declaration of heredity or certificate of heredity and provide it to the bank. This will prove your heredity. There are two ways to obtain this document:
Notarial declaration of heredity
This declaration must be issued by a notary and applies in the follow situations:
- Where a will exists
- Where a marriage contract was signed
- Where one of the heirs is a minor or incapacitated
A notarial declaration can cost between €400 and €650, depending on your situation and the research necessary to draw up the document.
The certificate of heredity
If your situation is “straightforward”, i.e. no will, no marriage contract and no heir who is a minor or incapacitated, contact your local Bureau de Sécurité Juridique who will send you a certificate of inheritance within 4 weeks.
Some municipalities allow you to apply online. Make sure you check the website of your local office. The certificate is free of charge.
Did you know?
In addition, if you are the heir or beneficiary of the deceased, you must file an inheritance tax return to the tax authorities before you can receive the inheritance.
Recover all the deceased’s assets
If you are not sure that you know all the deceased’s existing bank accounts, you can ask your notary to research any assets held in banks in Belgium, or you can go directly to the Belgian Association of Banks and Stockbrokers. This research costs €150.
In Belgium, over €250 million lies in unclaimed dormant bank accounts and the sum of unclaimed life insurance is several billion euros.