Death & frozen bank accounts

Death & frozen bank accounts
Why your bank account freezes after you die and how this impacts your family
When you die your assets are frozen for the executor of the estate to correctly assess the value and determine the solvency of your estate.
Darren Cohen
Darren Cohen - General Manager
27 April 2022 | 2 minute read
Death and frozen bank accounts

When you die, your family will be dealing with grief, focussing on the immediate admin of setting up a funeral. There are other important administrative issues to take care of.

After you die your estate must be reported to the office of the Master of the High Court in the regional jurisdiction where you've lived. It can be a lengthy process, even if you die with a valid will appointing an executor, but much longer if you die intestate (without a will).

How will your family survive after you die when your assets are frozen?

After your death, a judicial process (administration of a deceased estate) starts, which can take anything up to two years or longer. During this process the validity of your last will and testament is determined, and the assets which were in your name (such as bank accounts) are frozen. Once the executor is appointed a new bank account should be opened in which the funds would be transferred. This basically means that your family won’t be able to access those funds for a period of time.

There is an upside to this too though… By freezing the bank account no one else will be able to submit transactions on the account. If you had debit orders running against the bank account at the time of your death, these debit orders will fail to collect, and in turn prevent the bank account funds from being depleted while your loved ones can’t move the fund out of the account.

It should also prevent ongoing bank fees from being levied against your account while your estate is wound up.

Reporting a deceased estate to the bank

Each bank has their own processes and if you have multiple accounts with different banks, or even multiple accounts with the same bank (cheques, savings, credit etc.) you may need to contact your banks' different deceased estate departments. This usually involves a letter from the executor informing the bank the party has passed away, with the letter of executorship and death certificate attached.

My experience was that this process was slow and tedious. In general, you may struggle to reach these departments by phone, and when you send an email they can take days to respond just to tell you they received your email and what you need to send them. That being said email is probably best as you can keep track of whom you emailed and when. In order to make it a little easier, a list of deceased estate department contact details are provided below..

What you may need to provide to the bank

Each bank may have different requirements and is important that you make contact with your specific bank to ensure all of these specifics are compiled and sent through. Some of the documents the banks may ask for:

  • Death certificate
  • Letter of Executorship/ Letter of Authority
  • ID of the deceased
  • ID of the executor/s
  • Power of attorney – (if applicable) – to include ID numbers of all partied
  • ID of the person given power of attorney (if applicable)
  • Written instructions from the executor and signed
  • Proof of estate late account (cancelled cheque/ statement)

What about other accounts?

During your lifetime, you are likely to build up a lengthy paper trail with different service providers. These may include telephone, cell phone and internet providers, utilities providers, store accounts, subscriptions (newspapers, magazines and streaming services etc). You should keep a list of all of these so that your loved one’s can easily cancel these services / move them into their own names.

Payment of utilities

During this time it is the family member's responsibility to keep paying all utility expenses such as water and lights until an executor is appointed and later when transfer takes place of the property. This process could unfortunately take years. The executor has access to the funds in the deceased estate account, so once they have been successfully appointed it is the responsibility of the executor to pay all creditors on time.

At the time of writing this article, the following email contact details were available for the banks’ deceased estate departments

Capitec: CCSDeceasedHandovers@capitecbank.co.za

FNB: DeceasedEstate@fnb.co.za

ABSA: nde@absa.co.za

Nedbank: DeceasedQueries@nedbank.co.za

Standard Bank: deceasedqueries@standardbank.co.za

With Legal&Tax you're not alone

It is important to ensure that your will is up to date. Our Legal Advisors can help you ensure your will and estate as well as communicating on your behalf with your bank.

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