Smaller Print Larger Print
800-336-4529 618-985-4529
Sometimes the interactions a company has with its customer’s family can spiral outward toward the absurd.  Customer service being what it is today, it appears some companies can be quite insensitive or even incapable of dealing with the concept of death.

Life Care Planning, Estate Protection, Disability,
VA & Medicaid Assistance Lawyers

Institutions Can Be Insensitive About Death

 

            After a person dies, the family often must notify many companies and other institutions of their loved one's death. For example:  insurance companies, Social Security, banks, credit card companies, to name a few.

 

            Sometimes the interactions a company has with its customer's family can spiral outward toward the absurd.  Customer service being what it is today, it appears some companies can be quite insensitive or even incapable of dealing with the concept of death.

 

            A woman died this past January.  A leading nationwide bank that had issued the woman a credit card billed her for February and March for their annual service charge. To add salt to the insult, it then added late payment fees and interest on the annual service charge.  In a three month period following her death, the balance on the woman's credit card had gone from $0.00 to somewhere around $60.00.

 

            The following exchanged occurred between a family member and the credit card company:

 

○          Family Member:  "I am calling to tell you that she died in January."

 

○          Bank:  "The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply."

 

○          Family Member:  "Maybe, you should turn it over to collections."

 

○          Bank:  "Since it is two months past due, it already has been."

 

○          Family Member:  "So, what will they do when they find out she is dead?"

 

○          Bank:  "Either report her account to the frauds division or report her to the credit bureau, maybe both!"

 

○          Family Member:  "Do you think God will be mad at her?"

 

○          Bank:  "Excuse me?"

 

○          Family Member:  "Did you just get what I was telling you - the part about her being dead?"

 

○          Bank:  "Sir, you'll have to speak to my supervisor.

 

Supervisor gets on the phone:

 

○          Family Member:  "I'm calling to tell you she died in January."

 

○          Bank:  "The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply."

 

○          Family Member:  "You mean you want to collect from her estate?"

 

○          Bank: (stammer) "Are you her lawyer?"

 

○          Family Member:  "No, I'm her great nephew." (Lawyer info given.)

 

○          Bank:  "Could you fax us a certificate of death?"

 

○          Family Member:  "Sure."  (Fax number given.)

 

After the Bank gets the fax:

 

○          Bank:  "Our system just isn't set-up for death. I don't know what more I can do to help."

 

○          Family Member:  "Well, if you figure it out, great! If not, you could just keep billing her. I don't think she will care."

 

○          Bank:  "Well, the late fees and charges do still apply."

 

○          Family Member:  "Would you like her new billing address?"

 

○          Bank:  "That might help."

 

○          Family Member:  "Odessa Memorial Cemetery, Highway 129, Plot Number 69."

 

○          Bank:  "Sir, that's a cemetery!"

 

○          Family Member:  "What do you do with dead people on you planet?"

 

            Obviously, the bank involved needs to improve on its systems and customer relations.  Other companies and institutions, however, would do well to take a lesson from the exchange and to develop systems to deal with post-death issues and to provide their employees with training.  These post-death interactions most certainly are deeply personal to the family and could, if not dealt with appropriate, have a significant impact on the reputation of the company.

 

            Unfortunately, while some companies will "get it," some won't.

 

            How official must a notice of death be?

 

            If the death means the company is not entitled to some or all of the money claimed by the company, the family should simply send the company a letter denying the claim (total cost: a piece of paper, one envelope, and 41¢ stamp).

            If the death means a company must pay someone money, such as life insurance, the family will need to submit valid proof of death in the form of a death certificate.  But if the death means that a company should stop paying money or providing services  -  for example, Social Security, pensions, or cable TV services  -  then the company has no reason to demand proof of death in the form of a death certificate.

 

            Richard Habiger is an elder law attorney.  You may contact him at 618-549-4529 or Richard@HabigerElderLaw.com.

 

 


Contact Us

Name *

Phone *

Email *

Tell us more *


Physical Address
1808 Clark Street, Carterville, Illinois 62918
Phone: 618-985-4529
Toll Free: 800-336-4529
Get Directions

Mailing Address
1808 Clark Street
Carterville, Illinois 62918
Phone: (618) 985-4529
Get Directions

Offices

Physical Address
1808 Clark Street, Carterville, Illinois 62918
Phone: 618-985-4529
Toll Free: 800-336-4529

Mailing Address
1808 Clark Street
Carterville, Illinois 62918
Phone: (618) 985-4529