Ownership and handling of accounts

The holder of an account is the person to whom the funds deposited belong and is responsible for its movement.


Types of accounts

Accounts can be opened on behalf of one or more persons:

  • Sole account – deposit account with only one holder, which may be an individual or a legal person, such as a commercial company or a similar entity (real-estate condominiums);

  • Collective account – deposit account with more than one holder.

The accounts may be handled by the holders or by persons authorised to do so.

According to the form of movement, collective accounts are:

  • Joint signature collective accounts – can be handled by any of its holders alone;

  • Joint collective accounts – can only be handled through the signatures of all their holders;

  • Mixed collective accounts – offer different possibilities of handling, depending on what the account holders agree with the credit institution. For example, it may be agreed that the funds be handled through the signature of a particular holder or, alternatively, through the signatures of two other account holders.

The handling conditions initially contracted may, in principle, be changed at the request of the account holders.

In some cases, the holders of the current account may be prevented from handling the funds deposited in it, following the death of an account holder or following decisions by judicial authorities that determine the unavailability of handling of those funds.

As a rule, the disengagement from the deposit account by one of the holders should result from an agreement of all parties to the deposit agreement (other holders and credit institution).


Account holders who are minors

Minors may hold deposit accounts.

Deposit accounts on behalf of minors may be opened by their legal representatives (parents or guardians) or by third parties who show that they are entitled to legitimately open this account.

Minors aged 16 or over may directly request the opening of an account in their name and handle it freely if they prove that:

  • they were emancipated by marriage; or

  • they engage in paid employment under a regularly concluded employment contract.


Deceased account holders

The death of the holder of a deposit account must be promptly communicated to the credit institution where the account is located. The heirs may have access to the account as long as they prove their status as heirs with the credit institution, which will indicate the documents to be presented for this purpose (for example, death certificates and certificates of inheritance).

Credit institutions that are aware of the death of a deposit account holder are required not to authorise the withdrawal of any deposits without the heirs demonstrating, by legally established means, that the stamp duty on the transmission of such deposits has been paid or, in the case of an exemption from the tax, that the obligation to report the transfer to the competent finance department (Article 63 A of the Stamp Duty Code) has been fulfilled.

These procedures, which are compulsory for third parties, may lead to a greater delay in the provision by the credit institutions of the goods transmitted.

Information on the financial assets of deceased holders can be obtained, by the respective heirs, by consulting the Database of Banking Accounts.


Prescription of funds deposited in favour of the State

If, for a period of 15 years, the holders of a deposit account have not handled the account, or have manifested in any legitimate and unequivocal manner their right over the deposited amounts, the deposited amounts shall be deemed to have been forfeited to the State (Decree-Law No. 187/70).