George’s son was very stressed when his father died. He wanted to make sure his father had a funeral that lots of people could comfortably attend as his father was very involved in the community and the local bowls club, but while George did have money in his account on his death, his son could not access it and did not have money readily available to pay the funeral invoice.

Luckily for George’s son, George’s funeral invoice could be paid directly from the funds he held in his bank account.

No one has an automatic right to access a deceased person’s funds or to deal with the deceased person’s assets.  As soon as the deceased’s bank is notified of the deceased’s death the bank will freeze all accounts and will not take instructions from anyone but the deceased estate’s representative.

The one exception to the account freeze is the funeral invoice. Even if no one yet has legal authority to deal with the deceased’s estate (though Probate of the Will or Letters of Administration being granted by the High Court) the bank will arrange the payment of the funeral invoice to the funeral home directly from the deceased’s funds, or if someone else paid the invoice from their own funds the bank will arrange for that person to be reimbursed from the funds held in the deceased’s account.

To arrange payment of the funeral invoice, or reimbursement to someone who paid the funeral invoice on behalf of the estate, you will usually need to complete a form provided by the deceased’s bank, provide a certified true copy of the death certificate, provide a certified true copy of the funeral invoice, and provide proof of payment (if someone else already paid the funeral invoice).

If the deceased has insufficient cash funds in their bank account to cover the cost of the funeral the funeral directors, or the individual who paid the funeral invoice for the estate, will have a first priority charge against the estate when the estate funds can be accessed.

This means that the reimbursement for the funeral costs will be paid out first, before any other debts are paid or distribution made to the beneficiaries of the estate.

A deceased’s bank may not reimburse every associated funeral cost, such as the costs relating to a headstone or catering costs. If the deceased’s bank refuses to pay associated funeral costs then the individual who made other such arrangements to do with the funeral will usually have to pay the costs from their own funds, keep proof of payment, and wait for the estate to have access to funds to reimburse them from.

If the deceased has insufficient assets to cover the costs of a funeral, then the family should contact Work and Income to see if a Funeral Grant can be obtained in the circumstances. 

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