The process for handling bank accounts following a death vary by financial institution and state law. At some institutions, accounts are automatically frozen after a death. To avoid any complications, the bank or credit union should be notified immediately. Ask the representative what the procedures are for releasing the decedent's funds, and how to set up a new account for funds received after the death. It’s recommended that a joint account stay open for at least six months to allow you to deposit any checks that are made out to the deceased, and to allow time for old checks to clear. To remove a name from a joint account, financial institutions require a certified copy of the death certificate. If the deceased had a safety deposit box, the financial institution will typically seal its contents following death and a certified copy of the death certificate will be required to gain access.