Dying wife changed access to just one account

Categories:
Financial abuse of the elderly
Summary:
Barry complained to us that his bank had not carried out an instruction to add him as an account owner on all of his wife’s accounts.

The complaint stemmed from when his wife Mary was terminally ill in hospital. The bank noticed Barry had tried to access one of his wife’s bank accounts, which he had no authorisation to operate. It arranged for Barry to be added as an account holder to that account. The bank sent the forms to the hospital for her to sign.

Several months later, Mary died. Barry discovered he had been added as an account holder to her transactional account, but not to her term deposit accounts. This meant the term deposit funds formed part of Mary’s estate, and Barry would have to go to court to determine which family members were entitled to the money. If he had been added as an account holder to the term deposit accounts as well, he would automatically have become owner of the money in them upon his wife’s death.

Our investigation

Barry complained that he had asked the bank to add him to all accounts but it had not done so. The bank maintained it was instructed to add Barry only to the transactional account, and it was Mary alone who could authorise his access to the other accounts.

We reviewed the account mandate Mary signed and noted that it listed only the transactional account. No access to other accounts was changed.

Outcome

We told Barry it was unlikely we could consider the bank had failed to follow Mary’s instructions. Barry accepted this, and the case was closed.

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