Measures for co-holders of a bank account
In the past, when one of an account’s co-holders died, the financial institution did not remit the account’s contents to the surviving spouse until a liquidator for the succession has been appointed and certain steps had been taken. This could take weeks in the best of cases, and could also take much longer, which could make the surviving account holder’s financial situation precarious.
The Act respecting remittance of deposits of money to account co-holders who are spouses or former spouses allows spouses or ex-spouses who have a joint demand deposit account to access their share of the account’s balance more easily in the event one of them dies by compelling financial institutions to remit such amounts upon written request.
The purpose of this Act is to protect the surviving spouse or ex-spouse who co-holds an account with the deceased in order to allow such person to cover everyday expenses like groceries or mortgage payments.
Who are these measures intended for?
Spouses (whether married, in a civil union or in a de facto union) or ex-spouses who are the only co-holders of a demand deposit account, for example a checking account. These measures apply both to new and existing accounts.
Financial institution’s obligation to remit to the co-holder their share of the balance
If one of the account’s co-holders dies, the financial institution must remit to the surviving co-holder or the liquidator of the succession, at their written request, their share of the account balance.
Upon the surviving co-holder’s or liquidator’s request, the bank begins the process of remitting the requested part and the part belonging to the other co-holder. All or some of the account balance may be remitted, as per what has been requested.
If the financial institution cannot remit one of the parties’ share, it must hold this amount until remittance becomes possible. This might happen if the surviving co-holder cannot be found or if a liquidator has not yet been appointed.
Amounts are remitted in accordance with the written declaration of each party’s share, or, if such a declaration does not exist, the balance is split in half.
Declaring each party’s share
The co-holders can make a written declaration indicating their respective share of the account’s balance in the event one of them dies. A copy of this declaration must be provided to the financial institution.
If this information is not declared, the surviving spouse receives half of the account balance.
Accordingly, please make sure to make a declaration if the shares are not equal. For more information, contact your financial institution.
This declaration may be made by the co-holders when the account is opened or at any other time.
Financial institution’s obligation to inform the co-holders
Under the Act, financial institutions must inform spouses and ex-spouses that hold an account together of:
- their right to declare their respective share in the account balance;
- the consequences of failing to make such a declaration;
- their responsibility to inform the institution of any changes in their respective share.
The Office de la protection du consommateur (OPC) oversees the implementation of the Act. Financial institutions that fail to meet their obligations under the Act are liable to a fine.
This measure makes it easier to manage a joint bank account if one of its co-holders dies. However, it is important for spouses or ex-spouses who have a joint account to contact their financial institution and make a written declaration if their shares are not equal.