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Death, divorce, and savings accounts

Putting money in a savings account is a good idea – but what happens to your account when the unthinkable happens?

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  • Finance
  • Read Time: 4 mins

Responsible money management involves planning. If you want to save money, then it helps to have goals.

Depending on your stage in life, your goal may be to build up a deposit to buy a home, buy a new car, fund a family wedding, or take a dream holiday.

But it’s not just the happy moments in life that benefit from planning; there are also the “rainy days”. Some of them are minor, but others can hit like a category five cyclone.

Keep in mind that significant expenses can come out of the blue – including those associated with death and divorce.

There is no escaping death, of course, it’s just a matter of when it will be.

Divorce, too, can happen at any stage of life – and often one person in the relationship is blindsided.

If you think you are past worrying about that, consider that marriage breakups among seniors are increasingly common and many family law practices now specialise in what’s known as “grey divorces”.

This leads to the question: what will happen to your savings account if and when the worst happens?


In a divorce, the property settlement will be based on the savings and other assets – and liabilities – of both parties.

It doesn’t matter whose name they are in, or whether those savings or assets were acquired before or during the marriage.

Unlike in some other jurisdictions, there is no automatic 50-50 split.

A judgment will be made on factors including the current circumstances and future needs of both parties, considering their age, health, financial resources, and ability to earn. If there are dependent children, their needs will also be considered.

When there is a joint savings account, one party may attempt to withdraw funds from that account before or during divorce proceedings. If you do this, it will still likely be considered assets of the marriage and it may come out of your total share of the asset division.

In you are concerned your ex may be about to drain the joint account, you may be able to apply to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia for an account to be frozen. This will not be necessary if your primary savings account is set up so both parties must sign before funds can be withdrawn or transferred.

It is a good rule of thumb to maintain a separate savings account for yourself that your partner doesn’t have access to. This can be in addition to a joint savings account.


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In most cases, if an individual that is part of a joint account dies, the surviving party will still have access to funds and continue to operate the account.

However, in some cases, the bank may potentially freeze joint accounts if you or your partner dies. If this occurs, even if you are the executor of your partner’s estate, you may not have immediate access to these funds.

This underscores the benefit of checking these things ahead of time, and potentially having separate savings accounts, so the surviving partner can continue to pay living expenses while the deceased estate goes through what can be a long process.

Your savings are important, so even though some scenarios may seem unlikely or unpalatable, it’s always best to be informed.

National Seniors Australia Ltd ABN 89 050 523 003 arranges deposits as an authorised representative (AR 282736) of Auswide Bank Ltd, ABN 40 087 652 060 Australian Financial Services Licence 239686. We do not provide any advice based on any consideration of your objectives, financial situation or needs. A target market determination can be obtained at Before making a decision to invest, please consider the Terms and Conditions. If you make a deposit, we will receive a commission from Auswide Bank. For more information about our relationship with Auswide Bank please read the Financial Services Guide contained in the Terms and Conditions.*This account is protected by the Australian Government deposit guarantee. Up to $250,000 of deposits in ‘protected accounts’ held by an entity with Auswide Bank are covered under the Financial Claims Scheme. Information on the Financial Claims Scheme is available at

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