Family Forum – Tie up loose ends before your death

I’m well past retirement and heading into old age, with my affairs in disarray. Read on…


One of my younger brothers has been offering all sorts of advice, some good, some decidedly dodgy. In particular, he told me to write down all my bank details, including account numbers, usernames and passwords, and keep it in a safe place along with my will, house deeds and other important documents.

This sounds strange to me. Aren’t we always being told to never, ever write down passwords, even in cryptic fashion to jog our own memories? Surely the executor of the will would automatically gain access to all of my accounts, without having to log in as me?

He says that may be true (he doesn’t actually know) but that process would take some time and it would be better for the executor to have immediate access to funds, to allocate some money as the need arises in the short term. Where is the truth of the matter? Some (professional) advice would be appreciated.


It is generally accepted that you should not keep passwords in a place where other persons might find them. This has obvious security benefits.

You may decide to give your passwords to a trusted person before your death. This is best achieved by granting an Enduring Power of Attorney, which creates certain legal obligations on your attorney.

This decision will depend on the level of trust you have in that person. It is important to remember that once a person has access to a password, any number of transactions can occur quite quickly and it can be very difficult later to establish who it was was using the password.

Your executor, who may or may not be the person acting under your Power of Attorney, has legal responsibilities and obligations in relation to the proper distribution of your estate. These include the location of bank accounts and other investments.

In most cases banks and financial institutions will require Probate of the Will before releasing large sums of money. This process “proves” that the will is the deceased’s last Will and Testament. You can seek a copy of a will for which probate has been granted from the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court, 1 Gouger Street, Adelaide SA.

It is usually possible to access enough money to pay for funeral expenses and Probate filing fees. The balance may have to wait for Probate to be granted

It is a good idea to leave a list of your assets, including bank accounts, shares and investments in order that your executor knows what assets he or she is dealing with. You could leave such a list with your Will.

The panel notes your comment about your affairs being in disarray. The panel urges you to make a Will if you have not already done so.

Submit Your Questions

Have you got a question you’d like us to tackle?

Fill out the form below or send questions to Family Forum, The Advertiser, 31 Waymouth St, Adelaide 5000.

We treat communications in strict confidence except when the law demands otherwise, as in child abuse.

Relationships Australia SA appoints panels of general practitioners, medical specialists, lawyers, therapeutic and financial counsellors to discuss each letter before the appropriate professional answers it.