Back to Everyday accounts

Managing a deceased estate

It can be a difficult time when a family member or friend passes away. We’re here to help guide you through this process.

If you’re the representative of the estate of someone who recently passed away, and they were a BNZ customer, please inform us as soon as you can. Below are the steps to take and more information on sorting out the deceased’s finances (estate).

This information is a guide, it does not take into account your specific situation and is not financial or legal advice. If you’re unsure about how to manage a deceased estate, we recommend you seek legal advice. 

Step 1: Get in touch with us 

When you feel prepared to start the process, we’ll first need you to collect the following information: 

  • deceased customer’s full name
  • their residential (street) address
  • bank details (if known)
  • date of death
  • whether the deceased customer died with or without a will (if known)
  • the name and contact details of the administrator/executor/solicitor of the deceased customer’s estate (if known).

You won’t need to provide a certified copy of the will or death certificate at this stage. We’ll ask you some questions to identify you and your relationship to the person.

Once you have the above information ready to provide, contact us by:

Bereavement Operations
Private Bag 39806
Wellington Mail Centre
Lower Hutt 5045

Step 2: We’ll assign you a case manager

Our Bereavement Operations team is set up to assist you during the process of managing and finalising a deceased estate.

Once the team has received notification from you, a case manager will be assigned and will be in touch with the estate’s administrator/executor/solicitor. 

What will happen to the accounts

Freezing accounts

At the start of the process we’ll freeze the customer’s accounts, unless it’s a joint account.

When we freeze the deceased’s accounts, we’ll stop all direct debits, automatic payments, and freeze any debit and credit cards in their name.

Most of the time, this means the accounts can’t be used again. Once the accounts are frozen, we can’t arrange payment of the deceased’s bills, insurance or any other expenses from the funds in the account. You’ll need to make alternative arrangements with each organisation directly.

You can still make deposits into frozen accounts.

Joint accounts

If you have a joint account with the deceased, and the account is in credit, the funds will be transferred into the remaining account holder’s name(s). The joint account holder will need to update the account operating authority so they can continue to use the account.

If there are two or more remaining account holders, the distribution of the funds can only be done when we receive joint, written instructions from both account holders.

You’ll need to visit a branch to update any account operating authority (the account number will be the same).

Joint credit card and additional cardholders

If you have a joint credit card with the deceased, you’ll need to transfer the card into your name. Then you can continue to use the card, subject to our terms and conditions.

If you’re an additional cardholder with the deceased, you won’t be able to use the card. We can review your requirements and you’ll need to apply to have your own card.

Power of attorney

If you have signing authority (power of attorney) over a deceased’s accounts, all power and enduring powers of attorney stop from the date of death.

Life insurance

If the deceased had a life insurance policy previously serviced by BNZ, contact Partners Life on 0800 808 648 to find out how to lodge a claim, or if you have any questions.

Term deposits

If the deceased has a term deposit, we’ll roll the existing term deposit for the same term and applicable rates until Probate is granted and/or we are instructed by either the administrator/executor/solicitor.

You can’t move any funds from the deceased’s accounts into a term deposit until the dispersal of the estate is finalised. This is to avoid possible tax implications and to ensure we meet our obligation regarding the dispersal of the estate.

Step 3: We’ll get in touch with you

We have a duty to keep our customer’s information confidential, even after their death.

If you’re the solicitor/administrator/executor, we’ll write or email to you and provide a list of the accounts and/or services the customer had.

If you’re not the solicitor/administrator/executor, we’ll acknowledge your notification by writing or emailing you, and will ask you to help us contact the solicitor/administrator/executor so that they can contact us.

Information you might need to know

Estate total net worth more than $15,000

If the deceased’s estate total net exceeds $15,000 at the date of death, and there is a valid will, you’ll need to provide Probate or Letters of Administration.

Probate is granted by the Wellington High Court and confirms that the deceased’s will has been proved and registered in court, and that the right to administer their effects has been granted to the executor named in the will.

If there is no will, a will is invalid, or the executors appointed under the will have either pre‑deceased the deceased or are unable or unwilling to act, you’ll need to apply to the Wellington High Court for an ‘order to administer the assets of the estate’.

We’ll also require:

  • an original or certified copy of Probate or Letters of Administration (with or without a will annexed)
  • a letter signed by the executor(s) advising BNZ to pay the funds to a nominated account
  • certified valid photo ID and proof of physical address of the executor(s). More about ID requirements

Estate total net worth less than $15,000 

1. If no Probate or administrator is appointed

If the total net credit funds is less than $15,000 at the date of death and doesn’t include ownership of land or an interest in land, then a Deceased estates indemnity and claim form (PDF 454KB) can be completed.

Claimants who sign this form are declaring that they are not applying for Probate and/or Letters of Administration. With this form, we’ll also need:

  • an original or certified copy of the will (if there is one), note that only executors named in the will can claim
  • an original or certified copy of the death certificate
  • certified valid photo ID and proof of physical address of the claimant (spouse or otherwise). More about ID requirements
  • evidence of the claimant’s relationship to the deceased (e.g. marriage/birth certificate).

2. If Probate or administrator is appointed

If the total net credit funds is less than $15,000 at date of death and Probate has been granted then we’ll need the following:

  • an original or certified copy of Probate or Letters of Administration (with or without a will annexed)
  • a letter signed by the executor(s) advising BNZ to pay the funds to a nominated account
  • certified valid photo ID and proof of physical address of the executor(s). More about ID requirements

Where the deceased is not a New Zealand resident and has property in New Zealand

If the deceased was a resident of a Commonwealth country or Republic of Ireland, and Probate or Letters of Administration have been granted in any place outside of New Zealand, the Probate or Letters of Administration granted outside New Zealand must be resealed in the High Court of New Zealand if:

  • the deceased was a resident of a non-Commonwealth country, with an estate total net value of more than $15,000, then Probate or Letters of Administration must be applied for in New Zealand.
  • If the deceased’s estate total net value is less than $15,000, and Probate or Letters of Administration are not being obtained, then the normal rules apply and a declaration, and a Deceased estates indemnity and claim form (PDF 454KB) needs to be filled out.

Paying funeral expenses

We can consider a request to pay for funeral expenses:

  • where the deceased has funds not exceeding $15,000 in a BNZ account or policy
  • before Probate or Letters of Administration is granted
  • if the request is made prior to, by the person(s) who has the right to apply for Probate or Letters of Administration.

We’ll consider requests on a case by case basis. If we agree, we’ll make the payment directly to the funeral director upon receipt of the invoice and debit the deceased’s account for the amount paid.

We won’t be able to pay for any other expenses, such as travel for relatives to the funeral.

More than one solicitor/administrator/executor

If there is more than one solicitor/administrator/executor, each can sign on the other’s behalf only if they’ve given their written authority for another to do so.

Every solicitor/administrator/executor must sign a Letter of Authority or an indemnity claim form to close a deceased’s account. If there’s only one signatory on the form, then we’ll need:

  • a signed letter from each solicitor/administrator/executor giving permission for the one signatory to act for them, and
  • copies of photo identification for each solicitor/administrator/executor with the letter. 

Step 4: We’ll confirm the finalisation of accounts and/or services, and release the funds

At this stage, provided all the criteria has been met, we’ll close off the deceased customer’s accounts and/or services, and release any funds via a direct credit to an account nominated by the administrator/executor and/or the deceased’s solicitor.

We’ll also give the solicitor/administrator/executor a letter with the details of the finalised accounts and/or services.

Information you might need to know

Releasing the funds

The deceased’s individual accounts with the funds can’t be transferred into the beneficiary’s name. The account must be closed, and the funds transferred into another nominated account. 

We can’t distribute funds to different beneficiaries’ accounts – we’ll only pay one lump sum amount to a nominated account.

Keeping the deceased’s estate going

If the solicitor/administrator/executor wants to keep the deceased accounts (estate) going:

  • They’ll need to open a new ‘Estate of’ account. This is a non-personal account run by the solicitor/administrator/executor of the estate.
  • The solicitor/administrator/executor needs to go in to a branch with the appropriate identification and Probate/Letters of Administration.
  • If there’s more than one solicitor/administrator/executor, they all need to sign the account operating authority.

Deceased owing money

If there is an outstanding balance owing on a BNZ credit card or personal loan, we can deduct this amount from the funds held by the deceased customer to reduce or repay such debt.

For anything else, such as a home loan, we’ll work with the solicitor/administrator/executor to settle these since each case is different.

For more information relating to such deductions, please refer to section 5 of our Standard Terms and Conditions.

Insolvent estates

If the estate has more debts with BNZ than assets/funds, we’ll work with the solicitor/administrator/executor on the settlement of this.

Deceased who are company directors, trustees on a business account, or guarantors on an account

Contact us or visit a branch for more information.