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Estate Care Center

We’re here to help when a loved one passes away

The death of someone close to you is difficult, and dealing with his or her finances can feel overwhelming. If you have a part in handling an estate, we'll work with you to make it as simple and straightforward as we can.

What to do first

Know your role. A personal representative or trustee must follow the terms of the will or trust agreement. Even if that’s not your role, those materials can help to explain the responsibilities involved. 

Get the death certificate. We’ll need a certified copy of the death certificate as well as the person’s full legal name and Social Security number. Why do we need this information?

Find the will and check for a trust. If probate is needed, you’ll need to ask a probate court to appoint a representative. Consider getting help from a lawyer or trusted advisor. What if there’s no will?

Ways to notify us
  • Online: Use our online form to notify us about a customer's death. You will be prompted to upload the death certificate and/or additional documents if available.

    Notify Us Online

  • By mail: Close or transition deposit accounts by sending a notarized Letter of Instruction to:

    U.S. Mail:
    Wells Fargo Bank N.A. 
    Attention: D1118-02D 
    PO Box 71208
    Charlotte, NC 28272-1208

    Overnight delivery:
    Wells Fargo Bank N.A.
    Case Management
    Attention: D1118-02D
    12301 Vance Davis Drive
    Charlotte, NC 28269-7699

  • In person: Take the necessary documents to a Wells Fargo branch and speak to a banker. Make an appointment.
  • For Investment accounts with a Wells Fargo Financial Advisor, contact that advisor. For self-directed investment accounts, you can access WellsTrade® forms online

What you may need

Please note: For all account types, we require a death certificate.

Keep in mind we may ask for other documents depending on the state where accounts were opened or the state of residence. Additionally, certain forms may be required particularly for retirement accounts and for closing accounts through the mail.

Contact the Estate Care Center if you have questions about the necessary documents and forms.

Account Type

Account Definition/Scenario


Required Documents

Sole-owned Accounts owned by one individual who has passed away
  • Death Certificate
  • One of the following is required if no beneficiary is named on the account
    • Probate documentation, most commonly a court-issued document appointing an executor/administrator
    • Small estate affidavit in accordance with state laws
    • Court order

Payable on Death
Transfer on Death

Accounts that have beneficiaries who are designated by the owner(s) of the account to receive the balance of funds when the last owner on the account passes away 
  • Death Certificate
Joint-owned Accounts jointly owned with a deceased owner (most of these bank accounts carry automatic rights of survivorship, which means the joint owner will have full access to the funds)
  • Death Certificate is required to remove the deceased customer from the account
Accounts with arrangements to hold the assets in a trust
  • Death Certificate
  • Certification of Trustee naming a successor trustee
    • In some circumstances, the section of the trust agreement that names the successor trustee(s) is required

Affidavit of domicile: A document issued by a governing court that verifies where a person resided at the time of death. It is used to transfer ownership of property or stock into the new owner’s name. Sometimes it is referred to as an 'Affidavit of residence.'

Certificate of trust: A listing of limited information about the administrative provisions of a trust, which proves a valid trust is established without revealing specific details of the property or the identity of the beneficiaries.

Certified death certificate: A copy of the death certificate that has been certified; typically this document has a raised seal that says, “This is a true and certified copy.”

Sometimes, instead of a seal, these certificates have:

  • An ink or multicolored signature
  • A watermark (printed on security paper)

Joint tenancy with right of survivorship: A type of account ownership where all owners have an equal right to the account’s assets. When one party dies, the survivor owns all remaining assets in the account.

Letter of instruction. Any written document from a designated owner, successor, or court-appointed representative of the estate, providing specific instructions on how to distribute the remaining money in any accounts, and what to do with the accounts (such as close accounts) after disbursement.

(If you have an investment account, you may be asked to complete a “Letter of Authorization to Transfer Funds or Securities” in lieu of a letter of instruction.)

Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration: These documents are issued by the court and name a representative, typically an executor or administrator, who will manage the assets and liabilities of the estate, as designated in the will (or if there is no will, by state law). These documents may also be known as:

  • Letters of personal representative
  • Fiduciary letters
  • Certified executor documents

Payable on death (POD): An account with a beneficiary designated by the account owner. The surviving beneficiary will receive any money left in the account upon proof of the owner’s death. Sometimes these accounts are referred to as 'In Trust For (ITF) accounts.'

Potential Successor in Interest (PSII): A person who may have an ownership interest in a property securing a mortgage loan; but, has not provided the appropriate documentation to become confirmed.

Probate. The process in which a will is reviewed by a court to determine whether it is valid and authentic. During probate, the court will appoint a representative (sometimes called an ‘executor’ as named in the will (or an 'administrator' if there is no will). Probate also refers to the administration of the estate, with or without a will. Note: in some cases, based on state law, probate may not be required.

Small Estate Affidavit: In some states, this document can be used to claim or disburse money from estates of limited size, where formal probate is not required under state law. The state law will specify the asset value that qualifies as a “small estate” and requirements for the affidavit.

Successor in Interest (SII): Someone who has received ownership rights to the property through operation of law, death of a borrower, spouse or parent, divorce or separation, or an inter vivos (living) trust.

Tenants in common: A type of account where each owner owns a separate and distinct share of property. Unlike joint tenancy, these shares can be freely transferred to other owners, and there is no right of survivorship among owners.

Transfer on death (TOD): A feature of a non-retirement investment account that allows the owner to designate beneficiaries without going to probate.

Trust: A legal arrangement involving three parties: the party creating the trust (grantor), the party administering the property within the trust’s terms (trustee), and the party for whom the trust is administered (beneficiary).

Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) or Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA): The umbrella acts under which custodial accounts for minors are set up. The custodian of the account should transfer control of the assets to a minor when he or she reaches the age specified by statute (usually between the ages of 18 and 21).

Why do I need copies of the death certificate?

The death certificate gives us the information needed to verify the identity and legal residence of our customer.

How do I get all the documents to Wells Fargo?

  • Notify us online and upload a Death Certificate
  • Fax the documents to 1-866-358-1145
  • Mail the documents to us at one of the following addresses:

    U.S. Mail:
    Wells Fargo Bank N.A.
    Attention: D1118-02D
    PO Box 1245
    Charlotte, NC 28201-1245

    Overnight delivery:
    Wells Fargo Bank N.A.
    Case Management
    Attention: D1118-02D
    12301 Vance Davis Drive
    Charlotte, NC 28269-7699
  • Take the documents to any Wells Fargo branch for assistance from a representative

Note: For brokerage accounts, contact the advisor on the most recent client statement or call one of the following numbers: 

  • WellsTrade call 1-800-662-8211 
  • Wells Fargo Advisors call 1-800-603-1584 
  • Wells Fargo Private Bank accounts call 1-877-646-8560

How long will it take to release estate money in savings and deposit accounts?

The specifics of each account can vary, so the time it may take to settle an account will also differ. In general we begin to process a request as soon as we receive the necessary documents.

What happens to any property in a safe deposit box?

The joint safe deposit box owner can visit the Wells Fargo branch with identification and the key to take care of any belongings held in the safe deposit box. If the joint owner does not have a key, there may be a drilling fee.

If there is not a joint owner, the personal representative can visit a Wells Fargo branch, and a banker can help determine what we need to grant them access to the safe deposit box.

What happens to a mortgage?

The joint homeowner or personal representative can work directly with Home Lending to determine the appropriate next steps and any payments that need to be made.

What happens to joint savings and checking accounts?

The joint account holder can visit a Wells Fargo branch with identification and a death certificate to have the deceased customer removed.

What happens to the outstanding balance of a credit card?

The joint account holder or personal representative can work directly with Credit Card Services to determine the appropriate next steps to take for any outstanding balance.

What information is needed to open an Estate Account?

The following information is needed to open an Estate Account:

  • Original or Certified copy of appointment papers - including any of the following as applicable
    • Letters of Testamentary 
    • Probate court documents 
    • Domiciliary letters 
    • Letters of Appointment 
    • Letters of General or Special Administration, or 
    • NJ Affidavit of surviving spouse
  • Obtain and present an Employer Identification Number (EIN) issued for the estate

We use the death certificate to verify the identity, date of death, and legal residence of our customer.

If a person dies without a will, he or she dies “intestate,” which means state law determines who will handle their financial affairs and who will inherit any remaining property. Assets not determined by a will include life insurance, joint assets or accounts, retirement money, or beneficiary designations.

Any written document from a designated owner, successor, or court-appointed representative of the estate, providing specific instructions on how to distribute the remaining money in any accounts, and what to do with the accounts (such as close accounts) after disbursement.