How to Notify a Bank of a Death on a Joint Account

How to Notify a Bank of a Death on a Joint Account
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A joint account is one with two owners, whether they are spouses, family members, friends or business partners. The nature of the account allows each party to deposit and withdraw money as they wish. This can continue after the death of one owner but the bank must be notified of the death. The process is straightforward and requires only a few details.

Right of Survivorship

Find out from your bank whether your joint account was opened with the right of survivorship. This means that when one of the account holders dies, the surviving party becomes the sole owner of the account. A WROS -- standing for "With Right of Survivorship" -- after the names of the account holders expressly implies this intention. If there is no right of survivorship, the surviving party does not acquire the account. It is subject to the directives in the decedent's will regarding the estate.

Notifying the Bank

Call, visit or write to your bank to notify them of the death. Provide the deceased's full legal name, Social Security number, account number and a certified copy of the death certificate. Ask for the mailing address of the department responsible for receiving this information if you plan to mail it in.

Paying Taxes

You may have to pay estate and inheritance taxes on the money as the new sole owner. If you are the decedent's spouse, you will pay tax on half of the money in the joint account. If not, you will pay tax on the full amount. Federal estate tax is required only when the decedent's estate is worth $5.43 million or more. As of 2015, the following states charge inheritance tax: Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Spouses are exempt from this tax, and some states either don't charge children of the deceased or allow them to pay a smaller rate.

Making Adjustments

As the sole owner of the joint account, which is not subject to probate, you can make changes to it as you wish. You may ask the bank to remove the decedent's name from the account so that only your name appears, leave it as is or close it. Your bank must have a copy of the death certificate to change the names on the account or close it. If there are uncertainties about the decedent's intentions and your right to the account, there might be some opposition from family members. In that case, their actions, such as an injunction, might stop you from using or making changes to the account.