Excessive bank charges on inheritance fees

In a study published on October 29, the consumer association UFC-Que Choisir denounces the "confiscatory nature" of inheritance fees charged by banks. These excessive fees are estimated to generate 150 million euros for banks every year, and are up to 3 times higher than in neighboring European countries.

Inheritance bank charges: a misunderstood and opaque pricing system

These fees are little-known, yet, according to UFC-Que choisir, they represent a real financial windfall for banks, which reap an estimated 150 million euros a year. Inheritance fees are deducted by banks when they close the accounts of a deceased person, and transfer the available sums to his or her heirs.

They pay for a number of administrative operations, including " receipt of the death certificate, inventory of funds and management of post-mortem account movements ". The consumers' association, in its study of the high prices charged on the savings of the dead, denounces exorbitant and opaque fees, which do not always appear on the pricing brochures of banking establishments.

According to UFC-Que Choisir, " the banking lobby refuses to accept the demand for transparency on what these operations cost and bring in ". According to UFC-Que Choisir, it is this same lobby that has obtained " the indefinite postponement of the work of the Comité Consultatif du Secteur Financier, which is supposed to provide transparency on inheritance fees ".

The authors of the study call for " strict control " of these bank charges, which " requires, at the very least, that they be capped at a level that covers the costs actually borne by the banks".

Rates vary by a factor of four between banks

The consumer association has studied the price brochures of 21 banks to establish an average estate fee. The 233-euro average masks major disparities between banks. Bank inheritance fees range from 120 euros at Crédit Mutuel Centre Est Europe, to 527 euros at LCL.

To demonstrate the disconnect between the fees charged by banks and the costs these operations actually generate, UFC-Que Choisir has compared current inheritance fees with those applied in 2012. Between 2012 and 2021, they rose by an average of 28% (+263% at BNP Paribas), triple the rate of inflation over the same period.

The authors of the study also denounce a practice adopted by a quarter of the banks surveyed: they do not hesitate to apply surcharges when funds in the deceased's account need to be transferred to competing establishments. Transfers are charged an average of 145 euros, whereas the same service is free when the account holder is still alive.

Finally, UFC-Que Choisir has studied the fees charged by banks in neighboring European countries. This analysis shows that, on average, inheritance bank charges in France are :

  • twice as high as in Belgium (107 euros) and Italy (112 euros); 
  • three times higher than in Spain (80 euros);
  • In Germany, these fees are considered illegal.