Accessing a Deceased Spouses Bank Account

At PKWA Probate Law, we provide legal guidance for clients after the death of a loved one. Commonly, family members do not know what they should do during this difficult time. They usually want to know: “How do I gain access their assets to help pay the bills?”

As one of the largest specialist family probate law firms in Singapore, we help you to deal with the legal aspects of the deceased estate. We help you to unlock the assets belonging to the deceased so that you and your family can have access to the bank accounts, stocks, properties and other assets and distribute them to the rightful beneficiaries.

In this article, we explore what happens with the bank account that is held solely by the deceased.

To access the deceased’s bank accounts, the first thing you need to check is if your spouse had left behind a will when they died. Outlined below we have split the article into two sections. The first section covers the situation if the person died without a will, whilst the second section covers a situation where the deceased has a valid will.

If a person dies without a will

If a deceased person did not leave behind a valid will, the next of kin (usually, the wife/husband or one of the children) must apply to the court to obtain Letters of Administration. The person applying for Letters of Administration will be named as the Administrator of the estate.

At PKWA Law, we have been doing probate for the past 30 years, and our experience means that we are usually able to obtain the Letter of Administration within 6 weeks.

At the bank

Once we have filed your application for probate in the court, we should be able to obtain your Letter of Administration within 2 months. Once you have obtained the Letter of Administration, you (as the Administrator of the Estate) should then:

  • go to the bank
  • produce your NRIC card to prove that you are the named Administrator in the will and the Letter of Administration.
  • produce the Letter of Administration
  • instruct the bank to release the money in the deceased bank account to you.

The bank will normally release the deceased person’s money to the Administrator by issuing a cheque made payable to “the Estate of [the deceased person’s name].

The Administrator should open a fresh bank account that is in the name of “the Estate of [the deceased person name]. All monies dealing with the deceased person’s estate should be banked in or out of this account so that it is not mixed up with the Administrator’s own money.

Distribution of the money

After the Administrator has paid the deceased person’s debts, and collected all assets, they then distribute the money in the bank account following the Intestate Succession Act.

The law on intestacy (or the law of inheritance when you don’t have a will) vary greatly depending on whether you were single or married, or had children. In most cases, your property will be distributed to your next of kin which could include your surviving spouse, parents, siblings, aunts and uncles. Generally, when no relatives can be found, the entire estate goes to the state.

Thus, in summary, to access the bank accounts of a deceased person who died without a will, the Administrator must obtain Letters of Administration so that the banks will released the monies to him for him to distribute to the lawful beneficiaries.

If a person dies and has a valid will

If a person dies and has a valid will, the executor named in the will must apply to the court to obtain Grant of Probate. A Grant of Probate is a court order issued by the Family Justice Court, which means that the deceased’s original will is authentic, and the appointed Executor should carry out the deceased last wishes as stated in the Will.

At the bank & distribution of the money

Once the executor has obtained Grant of Probate, they should:

  • go to the bank
  • produce their NRIC card to prove that they are the named Executor in the will and the Grant of Probate.
  • Produce the Grant of Probate.
  • Instruct the bank to release the money in the deceased bank account to them.

The same process is then repeated – the bank issues a cheque to the Executor in the estate name. The Executor should open a fresh bank account in the estate name and release the monies to the named beneficiaries in the will after all debts have been paid.

Should you require any further assistance in this area please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Lim Chong Boon

Head of Family Law & General Litigation Practice

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