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Managing a deceased estate

It can be a difficult time when a family member passes away, but we’re here to help.

The information below will help you know what you need to do to sort out a deceased family member’s finances (estate) if they were a customer with us, and provide some information about wills, Probate, and how to finalise their account(s).

This information is intended as a guide only. It does not take into account your specific information 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: Let us know about the deceased

To let us know about a death, you don’t need to wait for a death certificate.  You or the solicitor/administrator/executor of the deceased’s estate can contact us immediately in the following ways:

Note: You can provide information for any stage via email and fax, and we also accept instructions via fax and email.

When you contact us, we’ll need the following information:

  • Deceased customer’s full name
  • Their 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's estate (if known).

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

At this stage, we’ll freeze the customers’ account(s) unless the account is a joint account.

What you should know at this stage

Freezing a deceased’s account(s)

When we freeze the deceased’s account(s), we’ll stop all direct debits, automatic payments, and freeze any debit and credit cards. Most of the time, this means the account cannot be used again.  However deposits can be accepted and we’ll continue to honour a cheque on a deceased account as long as the cheque is presented no more than 10 days after the deceased’s death and was dated before the deceased’s death.

Once the account(s) is 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.

Joint accounts

If the account(s) is joint with someone else, 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 also need to update the account operating authority (the account number will be the same).

Visit us in store to update any account operating authority.

Joint credit card and additional card holders

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 are an additional card holder with the deceased, you won’t be able to use the card. We’ll need to 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 account(s), all power and enduring powers of attorney stop from the date of death.

Life insurance

If the deceased has a BNZ LifeCare insurance policy, contact us on 0800 808 648, or visit us in store, 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 or executor and/or his/her solicitor.You can’t move any funds from the deceased’s account(s) 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 2: We’ll write to 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 provide a list of the account(s) and/or service(s) the customer had.
  • If you’re not the solicitor/administrator/executor, we’ll acknowledge your notification and ask you to help us contact the solicitor/administrator/executor so that they can contact us.

What you should know at this stage 

Estates total net worth more than $15,000

If the total net credit funds 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, or where a will is invalid, or where 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’. This is called ‘Letters of Administration’.  This gives a person the right to administer the estate in accordance with the law. 

Estates total net worth less than $15,000 and doesn't include ownership of land or an interest in land (where there is no Probate or an Administrator appointed)

If the total net credit funds is less than $15,000 at the date of death, then a Deceased estates indemnity and claim form (PDF 352KB) can be completed.

Please note: 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
  • Proof of ID of the claimant (spouse or otherwise)
  • Evidence of the claimant’s relationship to the deceased (eg, marriage/birth certificate).

Estates total net worth less than $15,000 (where there is Probateor an Administrator appointed)

If the total net credit funds at BNZ 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 all executor/s directing the BNZ to pay the funds to a nominated account
  • Proof of ID of the executor/s.

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 deceased estates indemnity claim form 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 to his/her credit in a BNZ account or policy, prior to Probate or Letters of Administration being granted, if the request is made 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 pay 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 others behalf only if they have given their written authority for another to do so.

All solicitor/administrator/executor(s) must sign a Letter of Authority or an indemnity claim form to close a deceased’s account. If only one has signed the form, then we need a letter from the others giving their permission for the signatory to act for them, and copies of photo identification for each solicitor/administrator/executor with the letter.

Step 3: We’ll confirm the finalisation of account(s) 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 account(s) and/or service(s) and release any funds via a direct credit to an account nominated by the administrator/executor and/or his/her solicitor. We will give the solicitor/administrator/executor a letter with the details of the finalised account(s) and/or service(s).

Information you need to know at this stage

Releasing the funds

The deceased’s individual account(s) 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 estate (deceased account(s)) 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(s)/administrator(s)/executor(s) need to go in store with the appropriate identification and Probate/Letters of Administration. If there is 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 because 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 to pay back the debts, we’ll work with the solicitor/administrator/executor(s) on the settlement of this.

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

Contact your local store for more details.