Knowing where to begin when handling someone else’s financial affairs can be overwhelming. Rest assured; our team is here to help guide you with the knowledge and tools necessary to make informed financial decisions.
While each situation is unique, here are the general steps you can take to make changes on an account of someone who passes away.
When you're ready, here's how to get started.
Determine your role. If you’ve been named a personal representative or trustee, you will need to follow the terms of the will or trust agreement. For more information about Estate roles and responsibilities, take a look at Useful terms and definitions.
Order death certificate. The death certificate gives us the information needed to verify the identity and legal residence of our customer. A certified copy of the death certificate is generally available from the funeral director who handled the deceased’s funeral arrangements, as well as from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the applicable state/county/parish/territory.
We’ll ask you for the deceased customer’s full legal name and Social Security number to identify their accounts. We’ll also determine your role with the estate, update your contact information and provide a case reference number.
Bank of America accounts. Visit your local financial center or contact Estate Servicing Operations to speak with our dedicated team.
888-689-4466 M-F 9–8pm EST
Wealth Management accounts. Contact us directly to speak with our customer’s private client advisor and/or financial advisor.
Tip: If you’d prefer to notify us at one of our financial centers, please schedule an appointment via the Bank of America Mobile Banking app or online.
After we’ve received notification, we conduct a detailed review of our customer’s banking relationship and take action to help protect their assets with the bank.
Helping to protect our customer’s assets. Typically, these actions are taken prior to receiving any documentation and include, but are not limited to:
Federal benefit payments. Any government benefits for the deceased, such as Social Security, will stop and/or be returned to the government.
Review the customer’s account and relationship to determine specific estate needs. We’ll conduct a detailed review to accurately assess what documents or action steps are needed to transition the accounts.
Tip: In certain scenarios, at the request of the surviving co-owner, we can recover Bill Pay information and transfer it to a different online ID. This must be requested and will not be completed automatically, and will be subject to review and approval.
Here are the required documents we'll need. Other documents may be required under specific circumstances.
Tip: To process your documentation as quickly as possible, make sure you have accurate and complete information, and that all paperwork is legible.
Photocopy of the death certificate. The death certificate gives us the information needed to verify the identity and legal residence of our customer as well as confirm the date of death.
Other legal documents. We may require additional documents such as a last will and testament, formal trust, birth or marriage certificate, or proof of legal name change.
Additional documents required by state law. These are used to confirm the identity of the deceased account holder and party/parties who have authority to handle the estate.
Tip: Consider seeking legal advice from an estate planning attorney to guide you through the estate settlement process and help you determine if a last will and testament needs to be probated. Certain states require a waiting period after the date of death prior to executing a small estate affidavit.
Banks forms we will provide you, if necessary:
Tip: Notary services are available at no cost in many of our financial centers. Schedule an appointment to ensure a notary is available to assist you when you visit the financial center. Here’s some helpful tips:
Existing Bank of America customers can access account information by logging in to Online Banking.
Your privacy is very important to us. We strongly encourage you to use Bank of America Estate Services online to securely upload documents that may contain personal information.
Contact the Estate Servicing team at 888-689-4466 to activate the Estate Services online capability if not yet active.
Tip: We accept documents in the following formats: PDF, BMP, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, JPG, or PNG. We do not accept GIF or HEIF files.
Below you’ll find common questions and other factors impacting an estate settlement. Keep in mind that the answers can vary based on the state of residence of the deceased.
How are accounts transferred after an account owner passes away?
The action taken will vary based on the way the account is owned. For more information please download the Client Resource Guide.
How long will it take for funds to be released?
Because the specifics of each account are different, the time it may take to settle an account will also vary. In general, we begin to process a request as soon as we receive the necessary documents.
Can I send a photocopy of the death certificate?
You can send a legible photocopy; however, depending on the circumstances, we may require a certified copy.
Who are the funds payable to?
This will vary based on several factors. But, in general, the following payout criteria applies to a single account owner:
How do I open an estate account?
Just make an appointment at your local financial center and an associate will be happy to assist you. You’ll need to provide your probate document and the EIN number to establish the account.
These items may take additional time to resolve and/or require more documentation.
Federal benefit payments. If a deceased customer was receiving federal benefit payments to their account, the account is subject to a reclamation review for paid federal benefits after date of death. These funds may be required to be returned to the issuing federal agency before any funds may be disbursed and/or deposit accounts can be closed.
The bank adheres to the reclamations process guidelines outlined by the U.S. Treasury Green Book and Gold Book when handling federal benefit payments.
New Jersey taxation requirements. Taxation documents are required for any maintenance on accounts opened in financial centers in the state of New Jersey or if the customer is a resident of the state of New Jersey. A 50% date of death balance hold will be placed on joint owned accounts at the time of notification. For more information, please contact a tax professional or the New Jersey Division of Taxation at 609-292-5033.
State court filing requirements
Death in a foreign country or territory
This responsibility and experience may be a first for many. Review the following terms for a more thorough understanding of the processes explained throughout this guide.
Apostille: A person who validates the seal and signature of a notary on a document so that it can be accepted in a foreign country.
EIN number: Employer Identification Number issued by the IRS, commonly used by employers to report taxes.
Estate: The assets and liabilities left by the decedent.
Fiduciary: A person who has been entrusted with the responsibility to manage the assets or rights of another person. May be referred to as a guardian, conservator, executor or administrator, trustee, representative payee, custodian or, in some cases, an attorney-In-fact (agent).
Last will and testament: A legal document in which a person includes instructions for the distribution of his or her property and possessions after death.
Letters of administration: Court documents obtained by the person or corporation appointed by a court to settle the estate of a deceased person if no valid will can be found or if there is a will and the named fiduciary does not serve.
Letter of instruction: A document completed and signed by the beneficiary, successor, affiant or court-appointed representative of the estate providing specific instructions on how to disburse the remaining money in any accounts.
Letter Testamentary: Court documents obtained by the executor/executrix confirming his or her appointment as the personal representative with authority to settle an estate.
Power of Attorney: A legal document that designates another to act on behalf of the account owner (the principal) and is valid only during that account owner’s lifetime. The power to act ends with the account owner’s death.
Probate: The legal process of collecting the assets of a deceased person to pay any liabilities remaining on the person’s estate, then distributing the remaining assets according to the will, or state law if no will exists.
Residence: Official place of residence (based on what state of residence is listed on the death certificate).
Small estate affadivit: In some states, based on the size of the estate, this legal document can be used to claim or disburse assets without having to go through formal probate. The threshold for what meets the “small estate” guideline and who qualifies to use this process varies from state to state.
Successor in interest: Person who indicates they have interest or rights to property under a mortgage with Bank of America.
U.S. Treasury Gold Book: A guide issued by the U.S. Treasury to govern check reclamation. Check reclamation is a recovery procedure used by the Bureau of the Fiscal Service to obtain refunds (reclamations) from a presenting financial institution for paid U.S. Treasury checks.
U.S. Treasury Green Book: The Green Book is a comprehensive guide for financial institutions that receive ACH payments from and send payments (i.e., collections) to the federal government.
Estate roles and responsibilities
Administrator: The person or corporation appointed by a court to settle the estate of a deceased person if no valid will can be found or if there is a will and the named fiduciary does not serve.
Authorized user: A person who has been given permission by the account holder to use the credit card account, but is not liable for the debit resulting from such use.
Beneficiary: Person or persons who receive the assets of an estate after all debts are satisfied. Also, a person named in an informal trust as In Trust For (ITF) or Payable on Death (POD) beneficiary on bank records.
Executor/executrix: Person or corporation named in the decedent’s will to settle the estate and approved by the court to serve as such.
Personal representative: The person or corporation appointed by a court to settle the estate of a deceased person if no valid will can be found or if there is a will and the named fiduciary does not serve.
Successor trustee: An individual person or member of a board given control or powers of administration of property in trust once the current trustee(s) can no longer serve with legal obligation to administer it solely for the purposes specified.
Trustee: An individual person or member of a board given control or powers of administration of property in trust with legal obligation to administer it solely for the purposes specified.