Handling of the estate of a deceased person

What is a death estate?

When a person dies, his or her rights are transferred to the estate of the deceased.

Who decides on matters concerning an estate?

Matters concerning an estate are decided on jointly by the parties to the estate.

Who are the parties to an estate?

  • statutory heirs, in other words children of the deceased or their descendants
  • widow or widower if the spouses had marital right to each other’s property (the widow or widower is a party to the estate until the distribution of matrimonial assets has been carried out)
  • beneficiary of general legacy, in other words a person to whom the deceased has bequeathed his or her entire property or part thereof.

What rights does a party to an estate have without a power of attorney issued by the other parties?

In terms of banking matters relating to an estate, the interests of the deceased as well as the parties to the estate are protected. A party to an estate has the right, without a power of attorney issued by the other parties, to:

  • receive, for the purpose of inventory of the deceased’s estate, balance statements of the deceased person’s assets, loans and liabilities at the time of death,
  • also otherwise receive information on the situation of the deceased’s banking business at the time of death and thereafter,
  • submit to the bank for payment from the deceased’s account invoices related to the funeral or otherwise clearly linked to the death of the person, or the deceased’s electricity and phone bills or maintenance charges, and to
  • list the contents of the deceased’s safe deposit box, in the presence of two bank clerks. In this case, it is sufficient to present an official certificate showing that the person in question is a party to the estate.

What matters require the approval of all the parties to an estate?

The approval of all the parties to an estate is required for

  • withdrawing cash from the deceased’s account
  • emptying the safe deposit box of the deceased
  • selling securities of the deceased, or
  • requesting information on the banking business of the deceased in his or her lifetime.

Who can handle an estate?

The parties to the estate may authorise one of the parties or another person to represent the estate. An alternative to the joint administration of the estate by the parties to the estate is administration of the estate by an administrator appointed by the court.

What is an executor of the will?

In his or her will, the deceased may appoint an executor of the will who has nearly the same powers as the administrator, unless otherwise stated in the will.

Who has the right to use the deceased’s accounts?

When the bank is informed of the death of its customer, the right of use of the deceased person’s accounts is usually terminated. It is in the interest of the parties to the estate to inform the bank immediately of the death of a customer so as to prevent anyone from using the deceased’s accounts by virtue of a pre-existing right of use.

Parties to an undistributed estate jointly administer the property of the estate. Parties to the estate of a deceased person only have the right to use the assets of the deceased jointly until the estate has been distributed or until the parties to the estate agree otherwise.

The payment of costs arising from the handling, administration and the winding up of the estate does not, however, require the approval of all the parties to the estate as the payment is to the benefit of the death estate

What happens if the deceased’s account has been in joint ownership?

If the account is in joint ownership and one of the account holders dies, the estate replaces the deceased as the other joint owner of the account. If both of the account holders have had the right to use the accounts independently, the estate of the deceased and the surviving account holder both have the right to use the account separately after the death. If the deceased and the surviving account holder have had the right to use the account only jointly, following the death of the other account holder, the estate and the surviving account holder only have the right to use the account jointly.

Who has the right to obtain information on the lifetime banking business of the deceased?

Bank secrecy regulations protect the privacy of the customer. The deceased person’s banking business prior to his or her death is also protected by bank secrecy. Information subject to bank secrecy includes, for example, information on account transactions, payment flows, asset management services and debt obligations.

Parties to the estate of the deceased have the right to obtain information independently on the deceased’s banking business at the time of death and thereafter. Only all the parties to the estate have the right to obtain information jointly on the banking transactions preceding the deceased person’s death.

If the parties to the estate disagree on whether the bank should give information on the deceased person’s banking business in his or her lifetime to a party to the estate who has requested the information, an application for an estate administrator shall be made to the court. If the application for an appointment of administrator should cause unreasonable costs, taking into account the assets of the estate, the bank has the right, under certain grounds, to provide any one party to the estate with information on the banking transactions preceding the deceased person’s death. The bank is not, however, under any obligation to do so. An exception may be made, for example, where there is the suspicion of unauthorised withdrawals or in the case that some of the parties to the estate cannot be reached.

What documents should be submitted to the bank for the handling of banking business relating to an estate of a deceased person?

The handling of the banking business relating to an estate of a deceased person requires that at least the following documents be presented to the bank:

  • estate inventory deed and possible will or, alternatively, a copy of the estate inventory deed that includes an attestation from the registry office that the parties to the estate are entered correctly in the estate inventory deed. The estate inventory deed informs the bank which persons, as parties to the estate, have the right to dispose of the estate’s assets.
  • complete extract of the personal register of the deceased
  • a power of attorney issued by each party to the estate not present in person.

Are contracts concluded by the deceased person binding on the estate?

Payment services contracts concluded by the deceased, for example direct debit contracts, remain valid. This procedure is, in practice, generally appropriate as many payments, for example payment of electricity bills or maintenance charges, can be considered as coming to the benefit of the estate. Payment services contracts are terminated, however, if any one of the parties to the estate so wishes.

The contracts concluded by the deceased in his or her lifetime are binding on the estate. Under law, the estate assumes the role of the deceased and contractual rights and obligations are transferred to the estate. In banking, these types of contracts include account contracts, debt obligations and contingent liabilities as well as safe deposit box lease agreements.

What is the estate inventory deed needed for?

The statutory inventory of the deceased’s estate and the resulting estate inventory deed serve a number of purposes. The estate inventory deed is, among other things, a tax return for estate taxation purposes and a property inventory for the distribution of an estate. An estate inventory deed can be confirmed at the registry office, which gives it public standing.

Who should carry out an estate inventory?

The duty to carry out an estate inventory lies primary with the party to the death estate who is handling the property of the estate and who therefore, in theory, is best informed about the deceased person’s matters. An estate inventory must be carried out within three months from the date of death. The Tax administration ja registry offices have published instructions on the execution of an estate inventory and on the drawing up of an estate inventory deed.

Can a bank carry out an estate inventory?

A bank can execute an estate inventory as a notarial assignment. A notarial assignment is based on a written contract clearly specifying the rights and obligations of the bank.

The bank is responsible for ensuring that the assignment is handled with expertise at the bank and that the bank clerks responsible for the execution of the estate inventory have adequate skills and competence for the execution of the assignment.

A bank clerk can act as trustee in the inventory of the deceased’s estate. The task of trustees is, based on a notification by the notifier of the estate, to list and assess the assets of the estate in the estate inventory deed, according to the best of their knowledge.

The notifier of the estate is responsible for the accuracy of the information he or she provides for the estate inventory. The estate inventory deed is a declaration on oath, signed by the notifier of the estate. With this declaration, the notifier confirms that the estate inventory deed presents all the information, also on possible beneficiaries under the will.

Use of an estate inventory deed in banking

The bank demands an estate inventory deed on the banking activities concerning the death estate in order to fulfil its duty of care. When funds are withdrawn from the account of the death estate, the bank verifies from the estate inventory deed that all the parties to the estate are represented in the legal act.

To establish the parties to the estate, the personal data of the deceased and the names of the parties to the estate must be listed in the estate inventory deed submitted to the bank. Therefore the estate inventory deed in its entirety must be submitted to the bank, but information on the financial position of the deceased and the widow or widower can be crossed out.