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What Happens to a Joint Bank Account When My Spouse Passes Away?

Updated: Feb 26, 2023


Dealing with the loss of a spouse can be further complicated by the banking technicalities that accompany such an event. Many couples have joint bank accounts, which will need to be addressed if one of them passes away.

Understanding what steps need to be taken is most helpful for the remaining spouse in order to ensure that the financial matters are properly handled.


What Happens to Joint Bank Accounts?

If the joint account is an account, such as “John and Kari”, the remaining spouse cannot draw money out until the deceased’s name is removed from the account.


However, if the account is labeled as an “or” account (such as “John or Kari”), then the surviving spouse will be able to access money and write checks from it as needed.


What You Need To Do

If you have joint “and” accounts, you will need to remove your deceased spouse's name from them as soon as possible.


  • This starts by obtaining a certified death certificate and submitting it along with an authorization letter and proof of your identity to your bank, so they can update their systems accordingly.

  • Then, you will usually be issued new checks and debit cards featuring just your name on them so that you can continue making transactions as necessary.

The same goes for an “or '' account, but you will not have to address this right away, since you have immediate access to the funds.

  • You will want to update it with just your name sooner than later, so that no one else can access those funds without your approval. People search death notices to attempt to steal from accounts impersonating the deceased. They are very savvy on ways to do this.


Other Options

You can designate your joint account as Payable-On-Death Or POD beneficiary by completing a form the banks supply.

  • This allows you to designate one or more beneficiaries. After a death, the beneficiary must bring the Certified Death Certificate and their personal ID to the bank to get access to the money in the account.


Also, most joint accounts automatically have a Right of Survivorship.

  • This means when an account was originally opened as a joint account, if one joint-owner passes, the other co-owner will then be the sole owner of the account. You need to verify this with your bank, however.

  • One way to make it clear is to have your account listed as Joint Tenants WROS (With Right of Survivorship).

What About Other Financial Matters?

Remember to keep all the bank records. Taxes still need to be filed for your spouse showing any income in the year that they passed. Sadly, this is a reality.


Every family's situation will differ slightly, so I suggest you speak with a financial advisor who can provide advice tailored specifically to your family’s needs.

Remember I am not a legal or financial advisor.

My hope is that these blogs provide you with information you may not have known, so that it encourages you to start this journey sooner than later.

Most people are usually surprised at how many details have to be addressed, and the impact small decisions can make. Here’s where you can access more details in my blogs.


Friends, it's always best practice to discuss finances ahead of time so that everyone involved knows exactly what steps need to be taken if anything should happen.

Putting things in place helps ensure that all assets are accounted for

and managed appropriately during difficult times like this one.

Blessings friends,







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