To protect the rights of heirs, the law requires us to temporarily freeze access to any accounts or safe-deposit boxes held by the deceased and their spouse or partner (including joint accounts). That doesn't always make things easy when it comes to dealing with the deceased's banking affairs.
Why are the deceased's bank accounts frozen?
When one of our account holders or their partner dies, we are legally required to do two things
- Send a due and proper tax return to the tax authorities
- Release the deceased’s assets on their accounts and the contents of their safe-deposit box to the duly entitled heirs
That's why we must temporarily freeze access to any accounts or safe-deposit boxes held by the deceased and their spouse or partner (including joint accounts). We do this the minute we hear of the death. Access to accounts and safe-deposit boxes held in the sole name of a surviving partner who officially cohabited with the deceased does not need to be frozen.
How are frozen accounts affected?
- No further withdrawals can be made from the frozen accounts, but cash deposits and credit transfers onto the accounts are still possible. Payment orders already entered prior to death for execution at a later date will be carried out.
- All debit cards in the deceased's name are cancelled. Those in the surviving partner's name continue to work. If these cards are linked to a frozen account, they can only be used to check the account.
- Credit cards with a flexible repayment scheme or Pinto Visa held under a contract in the name of both partners are cancelled indefinitely. This means that not only cards of those types held in the name of the deceased, but also those in the surviving partner's name can no longer be used. The surviving partner can request a new credit card from our Flex range once the assets on the accounts have been released. If the credit contract is only in the name of the surviving partner and the card is linked to an accessible account, the card can still be used.
- Any other credit cards in the deceased's name are cancelled. Those in the surviving partner's name continue to work. If these cards are linked to a frozen account, they will be temporarily unusable for transactions.
- Direct debits linked to the deceased’s frozen accounts will lapse. KBC Brussels informs the creditor. Thus the payment can be presented using another channel, e.g. by way of an invoice.Powers of attorney over the deceased’s frozen accounts will lapse. Powers of attorney that had already been assigned to the spouse and children will remain in effect, but they will only be able to check the accounts. If there is no power of attorney in place for you as the deceased's spouse or child, or it was erroneously cancelled, we can issue an informative power of attorney at your request.
- Powers of attorney over safe-deposit boxes to which access is frozen will lapse.
- The online banking subscription in the deceased's name is cancelled. As the surviving partner, our KBC Brussels Touch and KBC Brussels Mobile apps only let you temporarily use your subscription to view account details.
Ensure bills are still paid
We make money available to you on an accessible account
As surviving spouse or legal cohabitee, you can receive a limited sum from the available funds on an accessible account to cover day-to-day expenses.
The amount cannot exceed half of the total credit amounts on all frozen current and savings accounts and is in any case capped at 5,000 euros1, which applies as a statutory maximum for all banks combined.
The money is usually made available to you on the account that your debit card is linked to, into which your salary or pension is paid and from which most automatic payment orders originate. When you inform us of a death, you can specify an account for living expenses. This can also be a joint account, so you can keep using your debit card and - in certain cases - your credit card.
You can pay using your own funds
Of course, as heir, you can also use your own funds to settle payments. The heirs can later collectively settle these payments amongst themselves.
Certain bills can still be paid from frozen accounts
Provided there are sufficient funds on the account and the payments are allowed by law, certain bills can be paid using the frozen accounts. Certain payments can also be processed such as bills and payments related to
- medical and care costs for the deceased
- rental of the home or residential care unit where the deceased lived
- bills for water, electricity, gas and central heating oil if they relate to the deceased's last official place of residence (as known to KBC Brussels)
- the full invoice from the undertaker
- The separate funeral expenses provided they relate to flowers, decorating the deceased's home, the costs of embalmment, the shroud, the chapel of rest, the coffin, shipping costs for the coffin, funeral service, minister's fee, printing and postage costs for death notices, the costs of a burial and scattering of ashes, mourners' collation, cemetery plot. Not the tombstone and ornamentation added to the tombstone
- Fire insurance of the deceased or of the spouse or legal cohabitee of the deceased
- The deceased's tax and social security liabilities
Your KBC Brussels team assesses whether a payment meets these criteria. Therefore, send copies or scans of original bills together with a complete signed payment instruction, also quoting the estate file number. You can send the documents by e-mail or post or hand them into your KBC Brussels branch. Your KBC Brussels team will be pleased to give you more information.
When are we able to make frozen accounts accessible?
We may only release assets on the accounts once
- We have filed the tax return
- We have a deed or certificate of succession showing who the deceased's heirs are and there are no tax or social security debts due (your estates team will give you details of how and where you can get this documentation)
- In the case of an estate that involves cross-border aspects (e.g., the deceased lived in Belgium and had accounts in Belgium and a second home in Spain), the notary public can also issue a European certificate of succession. This document also states who the heirs are and offers the major advantage that it can be used to settle the entire estate, for both releasing frozen accounts in Belgium and settling the real estate aspects abroad. Ask your notary public for advice.
- KBC Brussels has received instructions from the heirs or notary public how the assets should be distributed
- Any other legal formalities have been completed (such as where there are heirs resident abroad)
The time taken to settle the estate is significantly reduced if all tax and social security debts like personal income tax, property tax and motor vehicle tax are paid before applying for a certificate or deed of succession. Remember that this does not just concern the deceased's tax and social security debts, but also those of the heirs.
Open safe-deposit box
As soon as we receive the certificate or deed of succession, any safe-deposit box held by the deceased can be opened and an inventory made of the contents. This is done in the presence of the surviving spouse and all heirs. The tax authorities also have to be invited to attend, but they will rarely actually come. Once we've made an inventory of the contents of the safe-deposit box and we have permission from all the heirs, we can release what's held in the box provided there are no tax or social security debts (or they have been paid). If there are heirs living outside the EEA2 or if any of them are of diminished legal capacity, there are a number of additional formalities that must be dealt with. Your estates team will tell you everything you need to know in that regard.
1 KBC Brussels has calculated this amount based on the statutory conditions, but does not take into account the amount that you may receive from another bank to cover living expenses. If you withdraw or transfer more money in total than the maximum limits provided for by the law, then what you withdraw above these limits will be deducted from your share in the joint assets, common property or estate. Furthermore, you hereby carry out an act of acceptance. This means you can no longer reject the estate, or accept it subject to the 'benefit of inventory'.
2 European Union countries, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway