When a loved one dies, it's a terrible thing. After death, the surviving dependents usually also have a lot of bureaucracy to deal with. Even if the deceased did not leave much – almost everyone inherits a checking account. And this involves a number of points to which particular attention should be paid.
Almost everyone in Germany has a checking account. This is what you leave to your heirs after your death. In order for them to be able to manage the account promptly, they need proof that they are authorized to do so. This does not necessarily have to be a certificate of inheritance. A notarized will also entitles you to use the account in your best interest. In the case of a handwritten will, it is also necessary to inform the probate court that it has already been opened. If the deceased has given the heir a bank power of attorney beyond death, the heir can act immediately.
When you need a certificate of inheritance
The situation is different if you do not inherit on the basis of a will, but through intestate succession. If you are unable to present a bank power of attorney in this case, you will need a certificate of inheritance, which is subject to a fee. Stiftung Warentest has put more information about this on the web. There are two problems associated with this:
- Sometimes it takes some time until the certificate of inheritance is issued. During this time money can still be received on the current account. However, amounts can also be debited for rent, telephone bills or electricity, even though the deceased can no longer use these services.
- Anyone applying for a certificate of inheritance has already accepted the inheritance. At this point, however, the heir often knows little or nothing about the deceased's financial situation. So it could also be that the current account is deep in the minus. If there are no other reserves, this is an unpleasant surprise for the heir.
Tip: Regulate your finances or those of the people who want to bequeath you something early on. Talk to your savings bank advisor – for example, about a bank power of attorney.
A look at the bank statements
If you don't have a business, you usually don't have to keep your bank statements. But there are good reasons to do so anyway. If you file printed account statements or keep them in digital form for at least twelve months retrospectively, this makes things easier for your heirs, for example. This is because they can quickly find out from the account statements which amounts are automatically debited on a regular basis, i.e. once a year or several times a year. These can be costs for insurance, clubs, the electricity supplier or regular donations. If the direct debit shows a customer number, you should make a note of it as an heir. If you then call the institution or company and want to cancel the contract, a copy of the death certificate is often sufficient to do so.
You should also take a close look at standing orders and delete them. Attention: If the standing orders are based on a contract, you must cancel it. Electricity, water and gas can usually be cancelled with two weeks' notice.
And if there is also a bank power of attorney?
It can also happen that you inherit the current account, but someone else has a bank power of attorney beyond death. You should also clarify this as soon as possible. As an heir, you can revoke the power of attorney. In such a case, you should seek advice from experts.
Special case: joint account
Married couples often have a joint account, over which both can dispose independently of each other. Such an account is also called an or account. If one of the spouses dies and the other is the sole heir, the transfer of the account and further administration are unproblematic. It gets more difficult when several people inherit. In this case, the surviving partner can continue to manage the account, but must take into account the other heirs and their claims. So he may not simply empty the account. In these cases, too, it is important that the heirs quickly get an idea of the situation.
Your savings bank advisor will be happy to help you with questions about inherited accounts.