How to find forgotten accounts of your relatives

Britta Beate Schon

Several billion euros are sitting in the accounts of deceased people – and the heirs don’t know about it. Nobody calls the money. The banks do nothing to find the heirs. So if you suspect that there is Money still lying around somewhere, then you have to take care of it yourself.

The banks speak of "dormant accounts". According to estimates lie in Germany 2 to 9 billion euros on such accounts. Most of the time the owners are dead, sometimes the accounts have just been forgotten during a move. The Sparkasse Dortmund, for example, introduced the 1. September 2019 just under a quarter of a million dormant accounts. Balance: 4.7 million euros.

The money does not expire. It sits with the bank until heirs come forward. Then the institutes must also still decades According to the last account movement pay out the credit. However, they continue to deduct their account maintenance fees regularly during this time.

After 30 years they have to write off the money and tax it as profit, that’s what the tax offices require. But still, the banks would still have to pay it out if you come forward as an heir and prove your eligibility.

The British do it better

Otherwise, nothing happens with this money in Germany for the time being. Great Britain, for example, does things differently. After 15 years, the banks book the assets from such an account to a non-profit development bank and use the capital for social purposes.

But in Great Britain it is also very easy to trace such an account. There is a central register on the web ("My Lost Account") with which you can find accounts free of charge.

With a small question and with reference to the British model, the Greens in the Bundestag have asked the government to explain itself on the subject. Good initiatives to do this already exist: the Social Entrepreneurs Network (SEND) calls for a Register of abandoned accounts with the state development bank K, which would greatly facilitate the search for the heirs. After a period of ten years, the money automatically to a social fund flow.

Up to now, without such a register, you have to get along. The Federal government is currently planning no legal measures, it informs in the answer to the small question. The banking associations are also keeping a low profile on this issue. This does not mean that you cannot find abandoned accounts, but it is tedious. Therefore, we have gathered all the important places where you can investigate.

Another tip: Some also have money invested abroad. Especially common in Switzerland or Luxembourg. There are points of contact there, too.

This is how you proceed:

1. Accounts with a savings bank

To find accounts at a savings bank, you can contact the German Savings Banks and Giro Association by mail or e-mail [email protected]

Always send the copy of the certificate of inheritance or will with the account. The inquirers must provide their address as well as the last complete place of residence of the deceased person.

The association forwards the inquiry to the responsible regional association, which is based on the deceased’s last place of residence. If the deceased has accounts with a savings bank, the heir will receive mail directly from the responsible savings bank. It may be that the respective savings bank charges a fee for the search.

2. Accounts with a Volks- and Raiffeisenbank

In the case of Volks- and Raiffeisenbanks, there is an account tracing service on the association’s website. However, there is no central information office behind it. It is always the regional association that answers the inquiry. The search is limited to one federal state.

Costs may be incurred for the investigation, but these are not quantified more precisely, but depend on the scope of the investigation. You must also prove to the regional association that you are an heir, either through a certificate of inheritance or a will with opening minutes.

3. Accounts with private banks

If there are indications that the deceased also had accounts at private banks such as Deutsche Bank or Commerzbank, heirs can contact the Association of German Banks (Bundesverband deutscher Banken). If the heir can prove his eligibility, the association will initiate a central, nationwide investigation procedure. If an institution finds an account, safe deposit box or securities account, it contacts the heirs directly. The procedure is free of charge.

4. Accounts at public banks and building societies

Public banks include the Deutsche Kreditbank (DKB) and the Landesbausparkassen (state building societies). The Association of German Public Banks (VOEB) no longer offers an inquiry procedure. Today, as an heir, you have to contact the individual banks.

5. accounts in Switzerland, Luxembourg and Austria

If you suspect that your deceased relatives also invested money abroad, the search for accounts is easier, at least in Switzerland and Luxembourg.

Switzerland has solved the problem in an exemplary manner. There you can turn to a central office, namely the banking ombudsman. After filling out a questionnaire with a copy of your identity card and certificate of inheritance, you will receive information within three to four weeks as to whether the decedent had an account in Switzerland. But assets that have been without contact between customer and bank for 60 years must by law be handed over to the Swiss state.

In Luxembourg there is a support of the banking association: For 60 euros you get a sample letter, all address labels and further information from the Luxembourg Banking Association (ABBL). They won’t search for you, but they will help with the search.

In Austria the account search is for private About the Austrian Banking Association not possible. They only give information when they get a request from a court of law. The banking houses then give information directly to the court commissioner or. the court of hearing. This is usually of little help.

Britta Beate Schon

Britta Beate Schon is responsible for all legal topics at Finanztip. Britta Beate Schon, who holds a doctorate in law and is a lawyer, has worked as head of the legal department at financial service providers such as Telis Finanz AG and Interhyp. Previously she taught and researched in Japan as a DAAD Junior Professor of German and European Law. She completed her studies in Munster, Geneva, Regensburg and Leipzig.

Britta Beate Schon

Status: 1. November 2019

Britta Beate Schon is responsible for all legal topics at Finanztip. She holds a doctorate in law and has worked as head of the legal department at financial service providers such as Telis Finanz AG and Interhyp. Previously, she taught and researched in Japan as a DAAD Junior Professor of German and European Law. She completed her studies in Munster, Geneva, Regensburg and Leipzig.

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