More work to do – Inquiry into Banks dealing with deceased estates

14 June 2023
Sonia Apikian, Partner, Melbourne

On 9 June 2023, the Banking Code Compliance Committee (BCCC) handed down its report on the management of deceased estates under the Banking Code of Practice (BCOP) by the banks.

The BCCC’s report is aimed at helping banks to improve their practices and pursue better compliance with BCOP obligations. In turn, it is hoped that there will be better outcomes for representatives of deceased customers.

Key takeaways

  • the inquiry found widespread poor practices and non-compliance with obligations in the BCOP;
  • while there were examples of good practice, and the issues varied across the banks, inadequate systems, processes and procedures made a difficult time worse for the bereaved;
  • commonly, delays were found in banks responding to requests or acting on instructions from people managing a deceased estate;
  • customers perceived a lack of compassion at a time when they needed understanding, flexibility and responsiveness; and
  • banks have shown that they want to improve and are working towards better practices, with plans to give rise to better outcomes, which will be closely monitored by the BCCC over the next 18 months.


The report provides an analysis of compliance with Chapter 45 of the BCOP by six banks who responded to BCCC information requests between November 2021 and June 2022, as well as drawing from other sources such as customers and representatives and self-reported breaches of BCOP.

Chapter 45 of the BCOP commenced on 1 July 2019 and specifies how banks will treat a deceased customer’s representatives, including timeframes for compliance with requests for information on behalf of a customer’s deceased estate.

You can read Gadens’ previous papers on lenders dealing with deceased estates, including their obligations under the BCOP and dispute resolution process here:


The inquiry found poor practices as well as serious and systemic non-compliance with the obligations in the BCOP which fell into the following three categories:

  1. Fees and charges for services no longer provided: banks continuing to apply fees and charges to accounts of deceased customers despite being notified of their passing
  2. Failing to act within timeframes: banks failing to act on requests or instructions within the obligatory 14 days of receiving notifications or information
  3. Lack of respect and compassion: banks failing to treat representatives and family of deceased customers with the respect and compassion expected in the circumstances

The common underlying issues across the above categories were reported as follows:

  1. Systems and processes: while some examples that were given worked well, the BCCC found issues in both automated and manual systems and processes that contributed to poor outcomes and breaches of the BCOP
  2. Fragmentation of systems: the process for managing a deceased estate was commonly distributed across multiple departments, many of which followed different processes
  3. Monitoring and accountability: general monitoring and oversight of the procedures for managing a deceased estate were not sufficient, leaving gaps in accountability that contributed to poor practices and non-compliance
  4. Staff training and capability: problems with training and guidance in dealing with deceased estates were identified, with deficiencies in formal training on BCOP obligations

The BCCC noted that the banks cooperated in the inquiry by proactively providing information. Some banks provided greater detail on their rectification actions and a few noted that the instances of non-compliance were exceptions and did not represent the wider effectiveness of their current processes. The BCCC also acknowledged the significant progress made by the banks in recent years, including efforts to improve and simplify procedures and training.


To ensure compliance with the BCOP, the BCCC says that banks must consider and, where necessary, implement the following recommendations:

  1. Ensure systems and processes, across all business units and subsidiary brands, provide a comprehensive view of each customer.
  2. Ensure systems and processes accurately identify the suite of products and services, including legacy products, of a deceased estate.
  3. Have a documented end-to-end quality assurance and control system that covers each part of the process of managing deceased estates.
  4. Have rigorous quality assurance in place to make sure that all relevant fees and charges are identified before a matter is closed.
  5. Ensure front-line staff and members of any deceased estates team are trained to communicate with the sensitivity, respect and compassion required for representatives of deceased customers.
  6. Review and analyse delays to requests for information or instructions from representatives of deceased customers to understand their root causes and work on improvements.
  7. Accept a broad range of identity documents to verify representatives of deceased customers in line with AUSTRAC guidance on flexible approaches to identity verification.
  8. Ensure systems support effective record-keeping, including records on requests for information and instructions from representatives of deceased customers.
  9. Ensure the information provided to representatives of deceased customers is clear and accessible, and the process for managing a deceased estate is as easy to navigate as possible.

Moving forward

The BCCC expects banks not subject to the inquiry to also review their overall management of deceased estates as part of audit programs within 18 months. All banks need to consider the recommendations and look closely at their processes, including understanding their obligations under the BCOP and to ensure their management of deceased estates is fully compliant.

The BCCC will continue its investigations into particular banks and monitor implementation of their recommendations closely.

Gadens can assist lenders with their obligations under BCOP, including ensuring their internal processes are compliant and best practice.

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Authored by:

Sonia Apikian, Partner
Susan Verginis, Senior Associate


This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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