Withdrawing Money from a Deceased's Bank Account in Singapore

Understand the legal procedures and responsibilities involved in withdrawing money from a deceased's bank account in Singapore. Know the difference between the roles of executors, administrators and next-of-kin. Learn when and how money can be accessed, whether the account is held jointly or solely

Liane Yong

Liane Yong

Lawyer, Managing Director

12 min read •

Table of Contents

Dealing with a loved one’s passing is tough. One crucial aspect is managing their finances, including withdrawing money from their bank account to sort out their estate and pay their debts. Understanding the legalities and procedures involved is paramount to ensure everything is handled correctly. The executor or administrator plays a pivotal role in managing the deceased’s estate, including handling financial matters. This article will focus on the deceased’s bank accounts and credit cards.

Let’s break it down. 🚀

Understanding the Situation

When a deceased person passes away, their bank accounts usually become part of their estate, which is important to know for managing the deceased’s finances.

Locating the Deceased’s Bank Accounts

To identify the bank accounts and credit cards held by the deceased, several steps can be taken:

  1. Review the deceased’s personal effects, such as their wallet and files.
  2. Inquire with close friends or family members for any relevant information they may possess.
  3. Examine the deceased’s Will, if available, for details regarding financial accounts. In situations where there’s no Will, the Intestate Succession Act steps in to determine asset distribution. This underscores the importance of obtaining Letters of Administration to facilitate the equitable distribution of assets among the deceased’s heirs.
  4. Access the My Legacy vault to check if the deceased had documented any financial information online.
  5. Approach a lawyer to assist in writing to the banks.

Notifying Banks and Freezing Accounts

Banks may not be automatically notified of a customer’s passing. Typically, it’s up to the administrator or executor to inform the bank. To manage the deceased’s bank accounts and credit cards, the banks may request the following documents:

  1. Original Death Certificate of the deceased person.
  2. Personal Identification Document (for example, NRIC or passport) of the executor or administrator.
  3. Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, affirming the executor or administrator’s authority.

For joint account holders, the process involves notifying the bank to access the account balance, and in cases of disputes, a Court order may be required to resolve the issue.

Roles and Responsibilities of the Executor or Administrator

The personal representative, whether acting as an executor or administrator, plays an important role in managing the deceased’s estate, which includes handling financial matters. Their responsibilities typically include:

  1. Obtaining a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.
  2. Gathering and inventorying the deceased’s assets and liabilities.
  3. Notifying creditors and settling outstanding debts using the estate’s funds.
  4. Distributing assets to beneficiaries according to the deceased’s Will or intestacy laws.
  5. Filing tax returns and paying any outstanding taxes on behalf of the deceased.

Handling bank accounts is a critical part of this fiduciary duty.

Authority to Withdraw Money from the Deceased’s Account

The executor or administrator typically holds the authority to withdraw money from the deceased’s account for estate-related expenses.

This authority allows them to efficiently manage the estate’s financial affairs and fulfil their responsibilities in settling the deceased’s affairs. They can do so after obtaining legal authorisation and following specific procedures.

Here’s a step-by-step process:

Step 1: Verify Legal Status

The executor or administrator must confirm their role and authority by proving they are named as such in the deceased’s Will or have obtained the necessary legal documentation, such as the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.

Step 2: Gather Required Documents

The executor or administrator collects the relevant documentation. These documents typically include:

  • The executor or administrator NRIC;
  • The Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration;
  • The deceased’s Death Certificate;
  • Proof of relationship (such as a Marriage or Birth Certificate);
  • Any other paperwork required by the bank.

Step 3: Contact the Bank

The executor or administrator reaches out to the bank where the deceased held the account and informs them of the situation. They inquire about the bank’s procedures for handling deceased accounts and request guidance on the steps to access funds.

Step 4: Provide Documentation

The executor or administrator submits the required documents to the bank, including their NRIC and the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, to validate their authority to act on behalf of the deceased’s estate.

Step 5: Request Fund Release

Upon verification of the provided documents, the bank releases the funds from the deceased’s account to the executor or administrator. This may involve issuing a cheque made out in the estate’s name.

The duration for accessing the deceased’s funds depends on obtaining probate or letters of administration, typically taking anywhere from a month to six months or more. It varies based on factors like the executor’s knowledge of the deceased’s assets and court schedules.

Step 6: Open Estate Account

The executor or administrator opens a new bank account in the name of the deceased’s estate. They deposit the money received from the deceased’s account into this estate account.

Step 7: Distribution of Money

Once the money is securely held in the estate account, the executor or administrator shall settle any outstanding debts and legal obligations. Thereafter, they may proceed to distribute the money according to the terms outlined in the deceased’s Will.

By adhering to these steps, the executor or administrator can responsibly manage the deceased’s finances and address various estate-related expenses. Examples of authorised expenditures include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses.
  • Legal fees linked to estate administration.
  • Clearing outstanding debts owed by the deceased.
  • Covering maintenance costs for properties owned by the deceased until they are transferred or sold.

For more information on executors and administrators, we explore the - who, what, and why in our article here.

👍It will be good to remember to maintain clarity and transparency in financial transactions while handling the deceased’s bank accounts. It ensures compliance with legal requirements, prevents disputes among beneficiaries, fosters trust, and facilitates efficient distribution of assets.

Joint and Sole Bank Accounts

When dealing with the deceased’s finances, understanding the distinction between joint and sole bank accounts is important for navigating the process effectively.

Joint Bank Accounts

  • A joint bank account is owned by two or more individuals, granting each owner equal rights and access to the funds.
  • Upon the death of one joint account holder, the surviving account holder(s) typically retain full ownership and access to the funds in the account. This is known as the “right of survivorship.”
  • Banks often allow the surviving joint account holder(s) to withdraw funds or close the account without requiring probate court approval or the involvement of the deceased’s estate.

Sole Bank Accounts

  • A sole bank account is owned by only one individual, with no other joint owners listed on the account.
  • When the sole account holder passes away, the account becomes part of their estate, and the funds cannot be accessed until the probate process is completed.
  • The court-appointed executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate gains control over the sole accounts and must follow the probate court’s instructions for distributing the assets according to the Will or intestate laws.

In summary, understanding the ownership structure of bank accounts is critical when managing a deceased person’s finances.

Joint accounts typically pass directly to the surviving owners, while sole accounts become part of the probate estate and require court oversight for distribution.

Considerations for Next-of-Kin

As we delve into the role of next-of-kin in managing the deceased’s finances, a common question arises:

”Can I, as a next- of- kin who is not the executor or administrator, withdraw money from the bank account?”

Let’s address this misconception and explore the rights and obligations of next-of-kin in handling the deceased’s bank accounts.

Knowing the Difference

As we explore the role of both executors or administrators and next-of-kin in managing the deceased’s finances, it’s crucial to differentiate between the two:

  1. Executors or Administrators

They are appointed via a deceased’s Will or by the Court respectively. They are granted authority to manage the deceased’s bank accounts and financial affairs.

  1. Next-of-kins

Next-of-kins typically refers to the immediate family members or closest relatives of the deceased, who does not necessarily have the legal authority to withdraw money from the bank account.

They would only be authorised to do so if they are also appointed as the executor or administrator of the estate.

Imagine this scenario.

John’s father has recently passed away, leaving behind a considerable estate. John, along with his siblings, finds themselves tasked with managing their father’s finances. Amidst their discussions, they realise that one or a few of them have possession of their deceased father’s ATM card and PIN number. With this in hand, they ponder whether they, as next-of-kin, have the authority to access his bank accounts.

Let’s delve into this question and unravel the rights and obligations of next-of-kin in such situations.

Next-of-Kin’s Access to Deceased’s Bank Account Held in Sole Name

If the next-of-kin possesses the deceased’s ATM card and PIN numbers and withdraws money from the account after the death, it would be considered unauthorised access and illegal.

  • Upon the account holder’s death, the account is frozen until the legal heirs are determined and an executor/administrator is appointed to manage the deceased’s estate.
  • Withdrawing funds from the deceased’s account without proper authorisation from the bank or the court-appointed executor/administrator constitutes unauthorised access and theft.
  • The bank can freeze the account immediately if they detect unauthorised withdrawals, and take legal action against the individual who made those withdrawals.
  • The unauthorised withdrawals can lead to criminal charges for theft, fraud or misappropriation of funds against the individual who made those withdrawals.
  • The court-appointed executor/administrator has the legal authority to recover any wrongfully withdrawn funds from the individual and hold them liable through civil lawsuits.

Therefore, possessing and using the deceased’s ATM card and PIN without authorization is illegal, regardless of the individual’s relationship with the deceased. This will be considered theft and can result in severe legal consequences, including criminal charges, penalties, and civil lawsuits to recover the misappropriated funds.

Next-of-Kin’s Access to Deceased’s Bank Account Held in Joint Names

Unlike bank accounts that are held in one individual’s name, joint bank accounts work differently.

  • Joint bank accounts operate under the “right of survivorship”. That means the surviving bank account holder(s) shall continue to retain ownership of the bank account.

So, if a next-of-kin is the joint owner of a bank account with the deceased, the next-of-kin is still allowed to access and operate the bank account. The next-of-kin will be considered the rightful owner of the bank account and is allowed to freely withdraw money from it.

Being the next-of-kin does not grant any special rights to access the account. Whether one can do so depends greatly on the type of bank account involved and whether the next-of-kin has the authority to access it.

Effective Communication

While it’s clear that next-of-kin generally lack legal access to the deceased’s bank account unless appointed as executor or administrator, their role remains crucial in facilitating effective communication with the designated executor or administrator.

Keeping the executor or administrator informed about any joint or sole bank accounts held by the deceased becomes imperative

Conclusion

In conclusion, managing the withdrawal of funds from a deceased person’s bank account in Singapore requires careful attention to legal procedures and responsibilities, usually overseen by the executor or administrator of the estate. This highlights the importance of effective estate planning, where appointing trusted executors in a Will can streamline the process and ensure compliance with legal requirements.

At WillCraft, we understand the significance of effective estate planning and offer a user-friendly platform to help you create and customise your Will. We also have lawyers to review and witness your Will for a small additional fee, ensuring your wishes are accurately reflected in your Will. With features like a free 7-day edit period and the ability to save progress, creating a comprehensive Will has never been easier!

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Frequently Asked Questions

What happens to bank accounts when someone dies?

The deceased’s sole bank accounts become part of their estate and cannot be accessed until probate is completed. Joint accounts pass to the surviving account holder(s).

Do bank accounts get frozen when someone dies?

Yes, the deceased’s sole bank accounts are typically frozen upon death until the appointed executor/administrator takes control.

Will the bank know if someone dies in Singapore?

No, banks are not automatically notified of a customer’s death. The executor/administrator must inform the bank.

Do I need to inform the bank when someone dies?

Yes, the executor/administrator is responsible for notifying banks about the account holder’s death.

Is it illegal to withdraw money from a deceased person’s account in Singapore?

Yes, withdrawing from a deceased’s sole account without authorization from the executor/administrator or bank is considered theft and illegal.

Who closes bank accounts after death?

The court-appointed executor/administrator has the authority to close the deceased’s sole bank accounts after settling debts and distributing assets.

Can I take money from an ATM out of a deceased person’s account?

No, using the deceased’s ATM card/PIN to withdraw funds from their sole account without authorization is considered theft.

How do I notify the bank of death?

The executor/administrator must notify banks, provide the death certificate, their identification, and legal documents proving their authority.

Can I access the deceased bank account to pay for the funeral?

Only the court-appointed executor/administrator can access the deceased’s funds to pay for authorised expenses like the funeral.

Can you leave a deceased person’s name on a bank account?

No, the deceased’s sole accounts must be closed and funds transferred to the estate account by the executor/administrator.

Can family members withdraw money after death?

Family members cannot withdraw from the deceased’s sole accounts unless appointed as the executor/administrator by the court.

What happens to bank accounts when someone dies in Singapore?

The deceased’s sole accounts become part of their estate, while joint accounts pass to the surviving owners.

What happens to money in the bank after death?

Money in the deceased’s sole accounts is controlled by the court-appointed executor/administrator and distributed per the will/laws.

How do I withdraw money from the bank after death in Singapore?

The court-appointed executor/administrator must follow legal procedures to withdraw funds for authorised estate expenses.

What to do if an account holder dies?

The executor/administrator must notify banks, provide documentation, and follow procedures to access/distribute the deceased’s funds properly.


Disclaimer: The information provided here is for general guidance and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a lawyer to seek legal advice that is specific to your needs.
Published on , and updated at .