If the responsibility has fallen on your shoulders to close up the accounts and cancel the contracts of a loved one who passed away, it can be a painful, slow, and confusing process. Here are 9 tips to make it go smoother.
1. Immediately request a credit report on the deceased. This will give you a broad overview of most of their open accounts.
2. Also get a good number of “Letters Testamentary.” This is a document from the court showing that you’re the proper executor or administrator of the estate.
3. Stock up on death certificates. You’ll need to send them in to prove your family member or friend has passed away and their account should be closed. Including them with your cancellation request will greatly expedite the matter. Survey all the accounts and get as many as you think you’ll need, then at least a dozen more. These should be originals and not photocopies.
4. As soon as possible, file requests to close every account shown in the credit report, along with any bank or utility accounts.
5. File an obituary in a newspaper that also publishes them online. This will help if one of the service companies tries to verify if the departed is really departed.
6. Politely ask the phone company to let you change the message on their voicemail. If people call the house line and hear the voice of the departed, it’s unnerving.
7. Know that while contracts expire upon death, debts do not. The estate is responsible for any remaining balances. However, debts do not transfer on to the next generation, so don’t let any collectors trick you into thinking you’re personally responsible for paying them back. Debts should be paid out of the estate monies.
8. If there are any assets of note, it’s probably worth it to get a lawyer. Letters and calls from them come in handy when dealing with recalcitrant and suspicious companies as well.
9. Above all, keep both your dignity and a bit of a sense of humor about the process. What a mixed up bureaucratic world we live in, ha ha ha! That, and a healthy dose of patience are necessary. Companies can be slow to respond to these requests.