Banking procedures after a death

Banks have to follow certain procedures after the death of an account holder. Read on for information on what happens to accounts, assets and safes.

Blocking accounts

The bank is obliged to observe strict legal requirements. When it is informed of a death, all accounts and safes in the name of the deceased and the deceased's spouse are blocked:

  • assets in the name of the deceased
  • assets in the name of the deceased's spouse
  • joint assets in the name of the deceased and the deceased's spouse
  • assets in the name of the deceased and a third party
  • joint assets in the name of the deceased and a third party
  • joint assets in the name of the deceased, the deceased's spouse and a third party

Ways of avoiding financially intolerable situations

This situation may give rise to financial problems, since the accounts of the deceased (and the deceased's spouse) are inaccessible. After a death there are always certain costs that must be paid, however.

On the basis of the law of 28 June 2009 (Belgian Official Gazette 21/08/2009), the banks allows the surviving spouse or the surviving legal cohabiting partner to have access to an amount not exceeding half the credit balances on certain account types up to a maximum of 5,000 euros. This ceiling must be strictly respected, as if it is not, the law sets out the following penalties:

  • loss of all shares of common assets, tenancy in common, or estate, up to the amount transferred in excess of the dual ceiling outlined above
  • loss of the ability to waive the estate or to accept it under benefit of inventory

Possible Solutions

On presentation of the invoices and at the request of an heir, ING may release money for a number of urgent payments:

  • the final medical costs of the deceased
  • the funeral and associated expenses
  • normal regular bills: water, gas and electricity, etc.
  • Money is also usually released for any rent. Such funds are charged to the estate and the actions are taken in a spirit of openness and understanding

Release of assets

As soon as the bank has received all the necessary information, it will contact the heirs or their representatives to find out how to settle the assets. It can only do so if it knows who the heirs are. The successors in title must then also supply the bank with a number of documents in proof of their title:

  • the death certificate issued by the Registry Office of the municipality in which the deceased died: this document is not always necessary, but may be of assistance in collecting the documentation relating to the estate
  • one of the following documents:
    • a notarised deed establishing succession (e.g. an affidavit or a notarised declaration of the right of inheritance)

      The bank must be provided with this document without fail in the following cases:
      • in the case of a marriage settlement, a last will and testament, if there are underage children, a will or heirs declared to be incapable, etc.
      • Otherwise, if the assets are worth less than 50,000 euros, a declaration of the right of inheritance issued by the Office of Legal Certainty will be sufficient. This document is free of charge.

Blocking safes

This obligation applies to all banks. When a death becomes known, the safe hired by the deceased or his/her spouse is blocked. The heirs do not have access to the safe until an inventory has been taken of the contents.

We should also point out that the safe of the deceased's spouse must also be blocked until an inventory has been taken of its contents, even if the spouses were married under an prenuptial settlement providing for the total separation of property.

Unblocking safes

The safe is blocked as soon as the death becomes known, but it takes much longer to re-open it, since a number of documents must be obtained and a legal procedure followed:

  • A full detailed inventory must be taken of the contents of the safe either by a representative of the bank or the notary
  • The inventory is signed in agreement by the heirs (or their representatives), the bank's representative, the notary and the representative of the Registration Authority, if the latter is present when the safe is opened. The representative of the Registration Authority must always be invited but does not need to be present