HomeFinanceEstate planning & willsWill you have bank account access if your partner dies?

Will you have bank account access if your partner dies?

There is much to process when a partner passes away – even if their death is not unexpected. The feelings of grief, loss and emptiness are just a part of the spectrum of emotions to deal with. And they don’t even touch on the practical elements that will also need to be taken care of at some point. Some of those will come sooner than others, depending on the circumstances. Bank account access is a common example.

Bank account access – joint and/or individual

There’s no blanket ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to set up bank accounts with a life partner. For some, joint access works best. Other couples will prefer separate accounts. Either way, it pays to know what will be needed in order to access funds if a partner passes away.

Accessing the funds of a partner’s individual bank account after they’ve passed away may take some time. The legal aspects of their will (if they have one) will have to be dealt with, and this may not occur quickly.

What many partners don’t realise is that they can be denied bank account access to a jointly held account, too. To be clear, this is not always the case. The way this is handled varies between banks, and even between accounts held at the same bank.

How can you tell if you will have access if your partner dies?

Even if you and your partner are looking for many more years together, it’s worth asking these questions now. In the vast majority of cases, if you have a joint account, you will still be able to access funds. It is worth confirming this with your bank, though.

For example, NAB advises that bank account access will not be restricted on the death of a partner. The bank’s website says “no action will be taken and the surviving account holder(s) continue to have access to the account as normal”. The bank will remove the deceased’s name from the account once they have received proof of death. 

The Commonwealth Bank website offers similar advice: “Surviving joint account holders will continue to have access to their accounts (and can request an update to the account title at any time).”

ANZ Bank’s advice is not quite as clear cut. It says joint accounts “will be transferred into the name of the surviving joint account holder(s) when we have received a certified copy of the death certificate”. However, it does not make mention of bank account access in the interim. If you are an ANZ customer, contacting them to clarify this would be a good idea.

Westpac advises that funds will remain available in most cases: “In most cases, if an individual forming part of a joint account dies, the surviving account holder will gain full access to the funds and continue to be able to operate the account. The funds do not form part of the deceased estate.”

Other circumstances

There are other circumstances in which joint accounts can be affected. Separation and divorce are common examples. Once again, checking with your banking institution is the best course of action so you know where you will stand. 

As unlikely as either event might seem now, knowing what is required ahead of time may help to ease the emotional and financial burden if such events arise.

Do you have a joint account with your partner? Do you know whether you will have bank account access in the event of their passing? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: Banking security under fire: are banks doing enough to protect you …

Disclaimer: All content on YourLifeChoices website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care but no guarantees are provided for the ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness in regard to your own circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances.

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigaczhttps://www.patreon.com/AndrewGigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.
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