Inheritance of funds accumulated on a bank account


Inheritance in Poland takes place on the basis of the provisions of the Act or under a will. The subject of the inheritance may be transferable rights and property, including money. However, inheritance of funds accumulated on a bank account is subject to a slightly different regulation.

Inheritance of money on general terms

Inheriting money in cash is not a major problem. The testator may save them to a designated person in his will or simply let the general provisions of the Civil Code apply in this case.

In the above case, money is not a special component of the estate, so their inheritance is the same as, for example, inheriting real estate, a car or left valuables. There is no problem with the fact that a specific amount of money expressed in cash is intended for the benefit of the designated person, while the rest of the inheritance will go completely to someone else.

Inheritance of funds accumulated on a bank account

The question of inheriting money accumulated on the testator's bank account is completely different. In this respect, not the general provisions of the Civil Code, but the specific provisions of the Banking Act apply.

The money in the bank account at the time of the testator's death is, of course, part of the inheritance left behind. In practice, however, information about the death of the account owner results in an automatic blocking of the account and the inability to withdraw any amount of money, even by members of the deceased's immediate family. The bank unblocks access to funds only when it receives information about the end of the entire inheritance procedure and the selection of final heirs. This happens on the basis of a registered Inheritance Certificate (APD) or a legally binding court decision on the acquisition of an inheritance from a specific person.

In practice, inheritance proceedings may take a long time, especially when the number of heirs is large, they are in conflict with each other, and the rights to the inheritance will be confirmed through court proceedings. All this time, the funds of the deceased in the bank account are frozen and no one can really use them. Sometimes this raises serious problems, especially when the deceased has left unpaid debts and there is an urgent need to settle them.

How to withdraw money before the end of the inheritance case?

It is of course possible to withdraw the deceased's money, which is in the bank account before the end of the inheritance case. Banks receive information about the death of the account owner with some delay. Thanks to this, the family of the deceased can withdraw all or part of the money collected there - of course, this option is possible only if the relatives have a bank card that allows the withdrawal of funds outside the facility or if a family member is a joint owner of a bank account.

Quick withdrawal of money means the necessity to deposit them within a few days from the date of death of the account owner - banks block accounts quite quickly, sometimes within 3 days from the date of death.

Disposition of the contribution in the event of death

Completing formalities with a bank is not an easy task, especially in times of pandemic constraints. All this means that the funds accumulated by the testator are effectively blocked for a period of several, sometimes even several months. The larger the amount in your bank account, the more difficult the whole situation can be.

The solution, however, may be to prepare a deposit instruction in the event of death - it is an alternative to the standard inheritance of funds accumulated on bank accounts. However, it requires some formalities to be completed while the future testator is still alive. Art. 56 of the Banking Law

The holder of a savings account, savings and checking account or a term savings account account may order the bank in writing to make - after his death - a withdrawal from the account to persons indicated by him: spouse, ascendant, descendants or siblings of a specified amount of money.

The amount of the payment, irrespective of the number of instructions issued, may not be higher than 20 times the average monthly salary in the enterprise sector, excluding payments from profit, announced by the President of the Central Statistical Office for the last month before the death of the account holder.

The instruction concerning the deposit in the event of death may be changed or canceled in writing by the account holder at any time.

The amount paid in accordance with the instruction for the contribution in the event of death is not included in the inheritance of the account holder.

Persons who were paid amounts in violation of the provisions on the basis of the deposit in the event of death are obliged to return them to the heirs of the holder. Establishing an instruction as a deposit in the event of death excludes the funds held in the bank account from inheritance under normal conditions. In other words, the money in your account will then not enter the estate, but only up to a certain amount. The regulations allow for the distribution of funds only up to 20 times the average monthly salary, which in the first quarter of 2020 amounted to PLN 5,367.60. The testator may therefore only submit an instruction up to the amount of PLN 107,352.00 - the surplus will be included in the estate and will be divided in accordance with the provisions of the act or the left will.

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How to set up an order in the event of death?

The allocation of funds accumulated on the bank account as part of the deposit instruction in the event of death requires the preparation of an appropriate application and sending it to the bank. Although the regulations do not introduce one binding template for such a letter, practice shows that each bank has its own template. Therefore, each time you should contact your financial institution and ask for a relevant form.

It is worth remembering that the creation of a deposit instruction in the event of death is free and no bank has the right to charge fees for this. This position was also confirmed by the Supreme Court in its decision of September 27, 2017 in the case file no. act V CSK 50/17. This instruction may only apply to funds accumulated on a private account - banks refuse to accept it when it comes to business accounts.

The most important advantage of the discussed institution is that the persons entitled to withdraw money under the established order can do so even on the day of the death of the account holder. Banks do not require to go through the inheritance right confirmation procedure - so it is not necessary to provide an extract from the registered APD or a legally binding decision confirming the purchase of the inheritance for payment.

To sum up, the funds accumulated on the bank account can be inherited in two different ways:

  • by keeping them on account and subject to the general rules of succession (by statute or testamentary provisions);

  • by creating a contribution instruction in the event of death.

The first method limits the possibility of withdrawing funds accumulated in the bank until the procedure confirming the acquisition of rights to inheritance is carried out (before a notary or in court). Until then, the money accumulated on the account is blocked.

The second method excludes a certain amount of money from the estate, which will go to the hands of the indicated persons even on the same day as the day of death of the account holder.