How to Change Bank Accounts & Deeds After a Spouse Dies

How to Change Bank Accounts & Deeds After a Spouse Dies
••• bank image by Pefkos from

It's a sad fact: If you are married, you have a fifty-fifty chance of outliving your spouse. Should you suddenly become a widow or widower, you lose not only a companion, you lose a financial partner as well. It is important to quickly update all legal documents and financial accounts to prevent fraud and ensure access to the accounts in the future.

Financial Accounts

Removing the deceased from a bank account or other financial account is a simple, easy process. Bring the death certificate to your bank branch and speak to a customer service representative. The bank employee should be able to take care of everything within a few minutes.

Reorder checks. It is a good idea to order checks without your spouse's name on them to help prevent fraud.

Follow these same steps to change other financial accounts, such as stock brokerage, investment and retirement accounts. If you are unable to visit a branch in person because it is online only or does not have a branch in your city, call a customer service representative and ask them how to handle this change to your account. Most likely, you will need to mail or fax a photocopy of the death certificate.

Legal Documents

Changing a deed, title or other legal document is another important step to take after losing a partner. Depending on where you live, you probably will have to take your documents to your county clerk's office. Bring the death certificate to the clerk's office, along with the documents you want changed.

Have the clerk reorder or reprint the documents with your name only. This will prevent any difficulty selling the property in the future, and will ensure in-laws can not sue you for partial or complete ownership of the property.

Store the documents safely, in case any question of ownership arises at a later date.


  • While it may be emotionally difficult, make the changes quickly. It is important for legal reasons that you secure your sole ownership of the accounts.