Q. My loved one has recently passed away. What do I do now?
We hope that this step-by-step guide will be useful to you at this difficult time. You can access it online or download a copy so that you can share it with family members or anyone else who might be involved. It’s also important that you get in touch with us as soon as you can and provide us with Proof of Death so that we can start to help you through this process. You can do this over the phone or in person at one of our branches.
Q. What if there is no Will?
If a Will doesn’t exist, the next-of-kin will need to act on behalf of the Estate, or an Administrator will need to be appointed by the High Court. To get the ball rolling, contact us and advise that a Will has not been located. More information on this can be found earlier in this guide at Step 2: Locating the Will.
Q. What if someone is contesting the Will?
If someone is contesting the Will, the process is more complicated and will involve filing a claim in the High Court (or the Family Court, in some instances). You will need to seek legal advice. If there is a Dispute in an Estate, Westpac will not finalise the accounts until the dispute has been settled and all parties are in agreement, or there is a court order in place.
Q. Should I close the accounts of the deceased?
There are some things you’ll need to check first. Generally once the next of kin notifies a bank, the account is frozen and subsequently closed. It’s highly likely that payments will need to be made to your loved one’s accounts in the months following their passing. These could be anything from Superannuation benefits to tax refunds, or shares in the deceased person’s name. If an account is closed, we usually cannot reopen it. It is usually the executor’s role to contact all parties who send payment to the account and to notify them that the funds must be redirected (to the executor’s trust account). This can be a time-consuming process.
Q. What happens to a deceased person’s account when I notify the bank?
When it’s a private account (not a joint one) we usually block access to the account as soon as we are notified. All signatories and Enduring Power of Attorneys loaded onto the account will also stop. Joint accounts will remain as they are with no blocks to your access. Business accounts and Trust accounts are also left unblocked as these usually don’t form part of a person’s estate.
Q. I have Power of Attorney over the deceased’s accounts. Does this still stand after their passing?
Unfortunately not. All Power of Attorneys, and authorised signatories cease once a person has passed away. Only the Executor, Administrator or legal representative (Estate Solicitor or Trust Company) will be able to deal with the bank regarding your loved one’s accounts once they’ve passed away.
Q. What happens to Joint accounts?
Joint accounts do not form part of the Estate and the surviving party has access to the funds which become the survivor’s ownership. The survivor can instruct the funds can be transferred to a new private account and the joint account can be closed.
Q. When will I need Probate or Letters of Administration?
Each Estate’s individual circumstances are assessed by us and, in some cases, we may need Probate or Letters of Administration to be granted before we can release the funds. If this is the case, we will let you know.
Q. Where do I get a Death Certificate?
A Death Certificate can usually be obtained from the funeral director or the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. For more on this, refer to Step 3: Funeral arrangements and registering the death.
Q. How long will it take to release Estate funds held in bank accounts?
Because each person’s circumstances are unique, the amount of time it takes to settle a Deceased Estate can vary quite a lot. In saying that, the earlier we receive all of the documentation we need, the quicker we will be able to process the request. If the amount is under $15,000 we may be able to release directly to the beneficiary, however if the amount is larger than $15,000 the funds can only be released to the Executor or administrator of the estate who will have to follow any legislative rules in place. This can vary depending on your situation.
Q. What if the person who has died had debt owing?
If the person who passed away had monies owing to Westpac, the Estate must allow for these to be repaid before releasing credit funds. The family or next of kin are not personally liable for any outstanding Estate debt, however if the Estate is not insolvent, debts must be repaid before the estate can be disbursed to the beneficiaries.
Q. Why do I need to be identified by Westpac?
This is actually a legal requirement under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Act, which essentially says that all signatories must be identified if instructing a financial institution about a Deceased Estate’s funds before any money can be released. To identify yourself, you’ll need to bring two pieces of personal identification, including a photographic ID such as your driving license.
Q. What bills can be paid from the Estate?
We’re only able to pay the funeral bill from the Estate’s available funds. The funeral invoice and Death Certificate will need to be provided to us before you can claim these costs. There may be other estate bills that we can pay on a case-by-case basis.
Q. Can all funeral expenses be paid out of the deceased’s available funds?
Only the funeral bill can be paid for directly from the deceased’s account, and only once we’ve received the funeral invoice along with the death certificate. If you’d like to claim funeral costs that you’ve paid for already, we’ll need the original receipt, as well as the funeral invoice, in order to reimburse you.
Reimbursements can be considered by sending the invoice to our Westpac Estates Management Team or taking the documents to any Westpac Branch to forward to us. Other expenses like the wake, headstone or memorial cannot be paid from the deceased’s account. For details on funeral arrangements, see Step 3.
Will Westpac release funds from the deceased customer’s account(s) to pay for additional expenses associated with the funeral? (E.g. the wake, flights for relatives to attend the funeral, etc.)
Westpac won’t usually release funds from our late customer’s account to pay for these kinds of expenses.
Q. What do I do if Westpac is still sending mail to the deceased?
Westpac will stop any outgoing mail once we are notified of someone’s passing, however sometimes mail may be sent after you have notified us. If you continue to receive mail in your loved one’s name beyond this point, please let our Estates Management Team know.
Q. What is Safe Custody?
Safe Custody is the safe keeping of important documents and valuables. If your loved one has a Safe Custody packet with Westpac, we’ll let you know of the requirements to uplift this.
Q. Where can I find more information?
For information specific to your Estate, please contact your case manager. We've also provided a list of other organisations you may want to contact for other information here.