My brother died; how do I close his bank account?

Common Question

One of the common questions I receive is how to close a relative’s bank account when they pass away. The fact pattern usually follows that the relative is single with no children and did not have a will. There was no one listed on the bank account with him. The closest living relative is a sibling.

If the deceased person has creditors, then they may make a claim against the estate to obtain the money in the bank account. No one wants to be held personally liable for misusing the property of the deceased. Banks are not going to release the money without authority. What should you do?

Show Me the Money

First, try to find out what type of bank account your relative had. For example, was it a Payable on Death account? This type of account is often referred to as a POD account. When a person opens a bank account, they can select the Payable on Death option. It tells the bank who to pay the money to when the account holder passes away. The person named has no right to the money while the account holder is alive, though. Payable on Death accounts have been called a “Poor Man’s Will.” If there was a Payable on Death account, then the person named should be able to present a death certificate to the bank and receive the money. But what if it was not a Payable on Death account?

Simple Option

Texas has a small estate process that avoids the more expensive and complicated probate process. Under the small estate option, the next of kin can file an Affidavit of Heirship at the county clerk’s office that explains who the heirs are and the details about the estate. This process can be used to transfer money from bank accounts and other property. To qualify for the small estate option, the deceased person must have died without a will, left $75,000 or less in property, excluding real estate, have debts that are less than the amount of assets, and 30 day have past since the death. The judge signs the affidavit and it can be shown to the bank to close the bank account.


The Law Office of Hugh Spires, Jr. is available to make estate planning convenient and affordable. We draft wills, trusts and powers of attorneys at flat rates. Contact us to schedule a consultation by calling 210-874-5700 or