How to Avoid Frozen Bank Accounts after a Loved One’s Death

How to Avoid Frozen Bank Accounts after a Loved One’s Death

By Daniel A. Perry, Esq.

As an Estate Planning and Probate attorney practicing in Ohio, one of the most common questions surrounding bank accounts is whether they are frozen when a person dies.

Unfortunately, the answer depends upon the circumstances.

Many families find out about this problem after the death of a loved one. When the family attempts to access their loved one’s bank account, they discover that the bank needs the proper probate court paperwork before they can access the account.

This can cause many families frustration and results in families having to use their own funds to pay for their loved one’s final expenses.

Generally, whether bank accounts are frozen at death will depend upon how the bank account is titled.

Bank account owners can designate a beneficiary with a Transfer-on-Death (TOD) designation. These designations state that the ownership of the bank account passes immediately to the beneficiaries named on the TOD designation. Further, these assets pass immediately outside of the probate court system. Generally, you will need to present a valid death certificate to complete these transfers.

This can be a very powerful strategy for families.

However, it is important to be careful. Your TOD designations should align with your general estate planning strategies. There have been many cases where an estate has ended up contested and in court because TOD designations on bank accounts and other financial accounts conflict with the person’s will or trust.

Is there an instance where a bank account can be frozen?


If the bank account is solely titled in the name of the person who died, then the bank account will be frozen. The family will be unable to access the account until an executor has been appointed by the probate court.

For more information

If you have questions about estate planning or the probate process in Ohio, please contact our office at (513) 241-0400 or use the contact form available on this website to schedule a time to speak with one of our Aronoff, Rosen & Hunt Estate Planning and Probate attorneys. We look forward to hearing from you!