Authorities explained

What are authorities?

Throughout your life there may be circumstances when you wish to grant access to an account or authorise someone to manage your financial affairs on your behalf. Alternatively, you may be helping a loved one who is no longer physically or legally capable of making their own financial decisions.

The reasons can be complex and varied, but may include:

  • Physical or mental Illness 
  • Cognitive impairment or disability
  • Extended travel

Keep in mind that authorising access to your money and financial affairs increases your exposure to the risk of financial abuse and fraud. For more on financial abuse and the signs to look out for, as well as who to contact if you feel you’ve been a victim of financial abuse, please see the guides found in Tools & Support.

It’s important that you only give authority to someone you trust and who will look out for your best interests.

Your options

Make sure you seek advice when exploring an authority over your accounts or financial affairs as there are different options and considerations. You’ll need to understand what is right for you and your circumstances.  

  1. Third party authority – gives another person access to your nominated bank accounts. This is set up by the account holder in branch.
  2. General power of attorney (non-enduring) – allows someone to make legally binding and financial decisions on your behalf. This can be for a period of time or a particular purpose. We suggest you seek advice before entering into this type of authority.
  3. Enduring power of attorney – similar to a general power of attorney but can come into effect or continue if you lose capacity to make your own decisions. We suggest you seek advice before entering into this type of authority.
  4. Financial management order (also known as an administration order) – generally appointed by a tribunal when a person is unable to make their own decisions.

Access to your accounts – Third party authority

A third party authority gives another person or persons access to one or more of your bank accounts. It’s arranged directly by visiting a CommBank branch and allows the authorised person(s) to transact on your nominated bank accounts.

You can only authorise access to your accounts if you fully understand the nature and implication of the authority you’re giving.  

  • You may choose to authorise permanent access.
  • You may cancel the authority at any time by advising CommBank.
  • The authorised person will have access to pay bills or transfer money from authorised bank accounts, but not lending products such as a home loan or credit cards.
  • The authorised person won’t have authority to open new accounts or credit cards.
  • The authority will be cancelled if CommBank becomes aware that you can no longer manage your financial affairs.

When to consider a third party authority

A third party authority can be given to allow someone you trust to manage day-to-day banking transactions on your behalf such as:

  • A financial advisor or accountant making financial transactions or investments on your behalf
  • A partner or family member paying your bills or looking after everyday banking
  • If you’re living overseas or travelling for an extended period
  • If you’re in hospital and unable to regularly access your banking.

Keep in mind

There are some limitations and risks to consider when giving someone access to your accounts:

  • You’re giving someone the ability to withdraw all or some of your money, increasing your exposure to the risk of financial abuse
  • If a financial management order is issued this cancels any third party authority previously authorised by the account holder.

How do I lodge a third party authority?

To give a third party authority access to your account, you’ll need to:

What to bring into branch with you

  • Your proof of identity (e.g. driver’s licence or passport)
  • Proof of identity (e.g. driver’s licence or passport) from each person you're providing account access to 
  • An original, completed Authority to Operate – Third Party form (.pdf). We can help you complete this form in branch.

Power of attorney

A power of attorney is a formal document where a person, known as the principal or donor, gives the legal authority to someone to look after their financial affairs. This authority ceases should the principal pass away.

You can only appoint an attorney if you fully understand what you’re getting into and are capable of making your own decisions. 

There are two types of power of attorney:

  • General power of attorney (non-enduring)
  • Enduring power of attorney

General power of attorney (non-enduring)

A general power of attorney allows you to appoint one or more people (attorneys) to make legally binding and financial decisions on your behalf.

The authority will be revoked if you're no longer capable to make decisions, or you're no longer legally capable to manage your financial affairs.

When to consider a general power of attorney

A general power of attorney may be useful if you wish to put in place a temporary formal arrangement, for a specific purpose such as:

  • Appointing someone to buy or sell real estate or trade shares
  • While you’re away for a period, e.g. holiday or career break.

Enduring power of attorney

An enduring power of attorney allows you to appoint one or more people (attorneys) to make legally binding and financial decisions on your behalf. Your appointed attorney(s) can continue making financial decisions if you're no longer capable to make decisions, or you’re no longer legally capable to manage your financial affairs.  

You can elect for an enduring power of attorney to only come into effect or begin after you lose decision-making capacity and you become legally incapable of making your own decisions. 

 

When to consider an enduring power of attorney

An enduring power of attorney should be used to put a lasting formal arrangement in place, including:

  • Planning for future incapacitation due to illness or injury
  • In anticipation of losing the ability to manage your financial affairs.

If you don’t have an enduring power of attorney in place and you lose capacity to make and communicate decisions for yourself, the chance to appoint someone yourself no longer exists and a financial management order will be required.

Keep in mind

There are some limitations and risks to consider with powers of attorney:

  • As the account holder, you'll continue to be able to access and transact on your own accounts, so long as you have the decision-making and legal capacity to do so 
  • A general power of attorney is only effective while you're able to make and communicate decisions for yourself
  • If a financial management order is issued, this voids and cancels any general or enduring power of attorney held. 

Attorney obligations & responsibilities  

As an attorney, you're required to inform us of any changes in respect to the principal.

If, for example, the principal loses their capacity to make decisions, you'll need to provide us with written evidence of this from a medical practitioner. The principal will retain all account access, and will be able to revoke and cancel a power of attorney, until you provide us with such evidence.

How do I lodge a power of attorney?

You can lodge a power of attorney in branch. The establishment process will be easier if both the principal (account holder) attends the branch together with the attorney/s (person/s who are to gain access to the principal’s account/s). We can only provide account access to an attorney who has visited a Commbank branch and has been identified. We realise there may be situations where the principal is unable to attend a branch, and in such cases we may require additional paperwork based on individual circumstances.

What to bring into branch with you

  • The original or a certified copy of the power of attorney document. While we don’t accept photocopies, we can help to certify copies of original documents at any CommBank branch (so long as you also show us the original document)
  • Proof of identity (e.g. driver's licence or passport) from the principal and each attorney.

Financial management order

An application for a financial management order (also known in some states and territories as an administration order) is usually made by someone with a genuine concern for the welfare of a person (known legally as a “protected person”) who is unable to manage their own financial affairs. In most cases this is a family member, friend, social worker or healthcare professional.

A financial manager is then appointed to manage the person’s finances. While a financial management order is in place, the protected person may have limited or no access to their own account.

Financial management orders are generally appointed by a tribunal. The appointed person:

  • Must be 18 or older
  • Can be a close relative, trusted family friend or a public trustee
  • Will be authorised to manage all financial affairs

Lodging a financial management order will automatically revoke and cancel any existing third party authority and power of attorney the account holder has previously authorised.

How do I lodge a financial management order?

The financial management order must be brought into a branch. You may need to complete some additional paperwork while you’re in the branch.

Normally the appointed financial manager is setting up the financial management order on behalf of the account holder, so the account holder won’t need to attend the branch.

If there are multiple financial managers, it is best for everyone to come into the branch together. However, if this is not possible, we can only provide account access to a financial manager who has previously visited a Commbank branch and been identified.

What do you need to bring into branch to complete lodging a financial management order?

  • The original or a certified copy of the financial management order document. While we don’t accept photocopies, we can help to certify copies of original documents at any CommBank branch (so long as you also show us the original document)
  • Proof of identity (e.g. driver's licence or passport) from each financial manager.

Tools & support

External support services

The information provided here is general only – each state and territory has different applications for powers of attorney and financial management orders. There are a range of external support services available that can help you understand and make decisions in relation to authorities and managing your financial affairs in your state or territory.

Things you should know

This information is general guidance only. There are some other authorities available only in certain states (e.g. Victoria).