How 5 Different Companies Treated Us After My Father's Death

Everyone deals with death at some point, and everyone grieves differently. The major corporations our lives are intertwined with often don’t want to let us go–or create unneeded problems for our survivors. Dan’s father recently died, and he wrote up a comparison of his family’s experiences with a variety of large companies. Out of Bank of America, American Express, Fidelity, AT&T Wireless, and Comcast, which companies do you think were the easiest to deal with under the circumstances?

I wanted to share with you a few contrasting stories about how different companies handled my father’s recent death. It is a very hard time for us, and some companies helped us through the process, while others made it seem as though they were out to make our day a little bit worse.

As background, we wanted to keep all credit cards, accounts, etc, and just have everything exactly as it is now, except in my mom’s name. We still have enough money for everything. It would also be great if people have specific tips on what to do with credit cards, bank accounts, cable and internet, etc, when a parent/spouse dies and you want to keep everything the same, and not cancel anything.

1. Bank of America (bad) – We were told our joint credit card was not originally applied for (25 years ago) with my mother’s name on the application. We all have cards on that account, but I guess the fact that my mom didn’t apply originally was enough for them to cancel our account immediately. I asked if my mom could take over the account, and they essentially wouldn’t even discuss it with us. That leaves us with only our Amex, which is also in my dad’s name. I was scared to call Amex, worrying we would then have no credit cards.

2. American Express (good) – I expected similar service from Amex, but they were the complete opposite. They immediately said “I’m sorry for your loss, would you like us to transfer the account to your mother’s name. You’ll keep all your rewards points, and we’ll allow you to continue using the card until you receive your new one so that there is no inconvenience for you.” My dad had been the applicant, like Bank of America, but for some reason Amex was able to really help us out, and be compassionate.

3. AT&T Wireless (horrible/amazing) – I tried to transfer the account to my name right before my dad passed, to avoid a hassle later, and they were horrendous (at first). I was told I would be charged $18 for each of our 5 lines to transfer to my name because my dad wasn’t quite dead yet. I was also told I would lose 100% of my rollover minutes. Additionally, despite me having a work email like my dad’s, they were going to recharge me $36 per line to cancel and then re-add the discount back. That would have been about $300, and loss of rollovers, for the “convenience” of my dad dying. I argued, and the lady on the line started crying. It was absurd. I asked to be transfered, and got this nice guy, same age as me, who had just lost his father too. He said he would work on this until it was resolved, and told me to go spend my time with my family, and he would just call me back when he was done. I’m sure it wasn’t totally legit what he did, but he called me back 4 hours later with 100% of my problems resolved. Finally, we cancelled his number, but wanted to keep the phone number in holding because we weren’t ready to part with it for emotional reasons. We were told we would be charged no ETF. However, we were charged it, and I called in to get it refunded. The supervisor said “sorry, no way you are getting out of this one.” I said “you are heartless – I will not stop arguing this until I get this charge reversed, and I think we both know I’ll succeed, so let’s save us both some time.” He eventually reversed it.

4. Fidelity (amazing) – Incredible would be an understatement. Our personal rep, [redacted], and another employee, [redacted], were both outstanding. They went above and beyond to make sure everything transitioned smoothly into my mom’s name, and that there were no loose ends. They even helped with stuff that wasn’t directly related to our Fidelity account. They filled out paperwork for us, and just had my mom sign, making our life so much easier. Additionally, they did this all for free, and didn’t expect anything in return, except keeping us as customers.

5. Comcast (bad) – I asked Comcast to put the account on hold, because my mom was spending more time in Boston with me, until we got everything resolved. My parents had a special deal requiring a contract, so cancelling wasn’t a good option. They claimed holds on an account are only possible during the winter months, when old people go to Florida (I was actually told that). I asked if they could make an exception, given the situation, and they refused. The supervisor claimed it wasn’t possible. I eventually just gave up, lowered her internet speed at least, and plan to ditch cable as soon as possible so I don’t have to give Comcast any more of my money.

There are many more companies I had to deal with, but those are a few of my recent encounters. Thanks for listening to my rant!

Our condolences to Dan and his family, and thanks for sharing. Have you had any exceptionally good or exceptionally bad post-death experiences with companies? Share them in the comments, or send them to tips@consumerist.com.