Just when you are at your most vulnerable, corporate policy can stab you in the heart.
Taking a deceased person’s name off an account is about the last thing you feel up to doing after your spouse has died. If you are like me, despite the potential cost of paying extra, you probably waited two or three months or even more before you felt able to make the call.
Even when it might be costing you money, the pain of calling a stranger and saying out loud ”I’m calling to remove ________ from the account because she has passed away can cause you to choke up with emotion you thought you had under control.
Almost always the call begins with a phrase like “I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, let me try to help”….Often that will be the last compassionate act you will receive. From that point forward, “corporate speak” is turned on and you are told you will need a variety of information to accomplish the simple act of removing a person from the file. The request will often start with something easy like the need for a a copy of the death certificate (LIKE HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE GOING TO FAKE SOMEONES DEATH?). Following that “easy” request will almost always be further requirements for things like passwords or PINS or the answer to “secret” questions. Unless you are one of the few who prepared ahead of time, the questions will be something you are unprepared for on the first call. You will most certainly have to rummage into documents and files you had hoped to avoid. The pain of chasing down the requirements re-opens painful memories.
I found in my case that over 75% of my calls could not be closed on the first try. The task of cleaning up records was more difficult than I imagined, The process discouraged me from tackling the list head on. I chose after a few attempts to do a call a week. Sometimes, every two weeks. I became numb to the request for all manner of required corporate information and pleasantly surprised when I could actually close a file without a second call.
I became cynical that the delay would often mean that account would be charged for one more month while the information got resolved. Nothing was done retroactively even when the information was verified. It appeared to me that the questions were actually designed to delay the process and get more revenue. If corporations can get just one more month from everyone who dies, the thousands of accounts would easily equate to millions of dollars. It made me wonder if corporate policy was to protect me or was it designed to generate revenue from vulnerable customers.
When one of my calls forced me to deal with a communications company I became sick of the whole process. I was told that if I wanted to take the deceased persons name off the account it would be tantamount to starting a new account and that the discounts for being a customer for over 10 years would be lost. Their solution was to just leave the account name as it was, get the invoices with the deceased persons name on them, and pay the invoices as if the person was still alive.
My spouse died over 18 months ago and I live with a new partner whose spouse died over four years ago. We get mail virtually every week addressed to our deceased spouses. We have called the organizations, many of which are charities, and asked them to change/remove the name. It hardly ever happens. Every week we get a small twinge as the name of our departed spouse shows up in the mail.
My suggestion for people facing the death of a spouse/partner is, as hard and as heartless as it may seem, to get your ducks in a row before they pass. Change all passwords to one that you will remember. Change all account names if possible before they pass. Get the answers to secret questions and PINS and create an easy reference file for your future calls. If possible do not give charities a donation from the deceased person within the last year of their life. If you move, do not give your forwarding address – Many organizations can change addresses but not delete someone who has died. Even with all your due diligence, you will continue, for years, to get mail addressed to your deceased spouse – And it never gets easy seeing their name on the envelope.
People die every day – There must be a more compassionate way to get someone’s name removed from accounts and mailing lists.
There must be a way to stop the name of a deceased person from showing up every week on a request for money or an old account.
But there is obviously no incentive from the corporate or charity side to get it right.
It still hurts!