Accessing and Managing Finances

If your loved one has left instructions in a will or created and shared a Go With Grace plan, you may be able to easily find and access their financial details as an executor of their estate.

If there are no such instructions, finding and accessing bank accounts, insurance details and other information can be a frustrating, time-consuming process.

Bank accounts when someone dies

The bank should be notified when a loved one dies.  This is the responsibility of the administrator or executor of the will.

If the bank account is in the sole name of the deceased then the bank account will be frozen until the bank has received a probate/letters of administration along with the documents they required for closure.  This means that any automatic payments attached to the accounts will be stopped (with the exception of mortgage payments).  Joint bank accounts (i.e. between a husband and wife) will continue to be able to be operated by the survivor and will pass into the survivor’s sole name.

Banks, however, will generally allow funeral expenses to be paid from a loved ones’ bank account, if there are sufficient funds available. Other government departments should also be notified, including the IRD and Work and Income New Zealand (if the loved one is receiving a pension or some other type of benefit).

How to close someone's bank account when they die

This is a responsibility of the executor/administrator of the estate.  Each bank has their own requirements for closure.  There will be forms to be completed.  The Bank will also need a certified copy of the death certificate and probate/letters of administration.

Finding bank accounts after someone dies

If no instructions have been left, a search amongst their belongings may help. There may be monthly bank statements posted.  If they were employed, their employer will have the name of the bank their wages were  paid to. If all else fails the administrator/executor can contact the different banks and ask if they have an account.

What documents do I need to manage an estate?

You will need a probate or letters of administration and the death certificate. You will also need Photo ID and proof of address.

How can I find out if someone had life or funeral insurance?

Have a look through your loved ones’ personal belongings.  Have they left a list of details as to what their assets are, who they bank with etc.? There may be documents amongst their personal belongings. They may have also had an AP set up with their bank which shows regular deductions being made. If you are unable to find anything, but believe there is a policy in place, it is prudent to contact insurance companies to see if they may hold life insurance for your loved one.  Law firms sometimes hold older insurance policy documents too.

How do I know if someone had KiwiSaver?

If a search through personal belongings doesn’t shed light, then try checking with the Bank or the employer may provide information. Enquiries can also be made with IRD.  If a KiwiSaver is in place, then they can provide details on who the provider is. The KiwiSaver will be accessed by the executor/administrator of the estate.

What happens to someone’s bills when they die?

Contact should be made with the companies to notify them of your loved one’s passing.  The bills are the responsibility of the estate, and the executor will need to make arrangements to pay them, when there are funds available to do so.

A family member or friend can pay a bill on behalf of the estate and be reimbursed at a later date. Once contact has been made with the utility company the utility companies will update the bills into the name of the estate and executors.

What happens to the benefit when someone dies?

Benefit payments are able to continue for 28 days after a person dies. This is called a ‘terminal benefit’. Often Work and Income stops benefits when they are informed that someone has died. However, they should continue for 28 days if financially needed. For example, if someone has superannuation, their super can continue to be paid for 28 days. Or if someone is on supported living payment or jobseeker, this can also be paid for 28 days after death. This is also the same for supported living payment (carer). Often people worry that their benefit will stop immediately. So, it’s helpful to know to contact Work and Income to inform of death and request confirmation of 28 days payment. This can really help with paying standard bills, and can also contribute towards funeral costs.

What happens to someone’s assets when they die?

There are a number of ways people own things and there isn’t always a simple answer to this.  Houses and bank accounts for example can be “jointly owned”.  Any assets that are jointly owned, will normally pass to the surviving owner.  That means that for a joint bank account or a jointly owned house, the assets automatically pass to the surviving owner (normally a husband or wife). That transfer happens regardless of what is set out in any will.

For assets which are simply owned outright or as “tenants in common” (that means in separate shares) those assets will pass to the executors of the estate and then will pass in accordance with the instructions in their Will or under intestacy law.


Record your end-of-life wishes

Go With Grace supports people to record their wishes when it comes to their own passing. Our Go With Grace planning tool allows people to create a funeral plan of what they would like their farewell to look like (including music, flowers, venue, attendees etc.), important wishes and key information such as the details for their bank, doctor, lawyer etc.

Find out more about business succession planning, to get your affairs in order ahead of time.

Banks generally allow someone's funeral expenses to be paid from their bank account even after they pass.

Notify one or more organisations of a death

You can use MyTrove to notify multiple organisations such as banks about the death of a loved one. Use MyTrove to finalise tax, cancel a passport, close bank accounts or start a life insurance claim.