Archives for: January 2009, 04
SS went to spend the New Year’s holiday with his girlfriend. DD spent the New Year’s holiday working nine hour shifts. HH planned to spend the holiday watching football. I saw an opportunity to go check on my Mom. It was a good thing I did.
She is really doing well. She is lonely, but that is understandable after 57 years of marriage. She is eating pretty well. There were plenty of fresh fruits and salads in her refrigerator. There were comfort foods too – crackers and ice cream – but I’m not going to pass judgment about that. The problem came when we began to go through her mail.
My Dad had been very carefully arranged to have all the utility bills paid automatically through his checking account. He did not want basic services to be in jeopardy if he were ill or incapacitated. He also had my Mom’s name and my name added to his checking account several years ago. I knew all of that, and the system worked well last summer when he was sick and confused.
What I didn’t know was that there are laws that when someone dies, the funeral home has to report the death to Social Security. In turn Social Security reports the death to financial institutions using that Social Security Number. The banks then freeze the accounts. The purpose is to keep angry ex-wives, unscrupulous children, or mercenary cousins from pilfering the assets before the will is executed.
My Dad’s account should not have been frozen because of the multiple signatures, but the bank made a mistake. They bounced all of the utility payments for December. Not only that, they refused to deposit a dividend check. As Mom and I opened the mail, we found a letter threatening to cut off the electricity. This was a stress I did not need!
It took more than two hours on the phone to trace the problem. We raced a check to the post office. A very apologetic bank manager promised to call the other utilities involved and attempt to resolve the issue before gas, water and phone are disconnected.
Why am I blogging about this? Two reasons. First – remember that comfort food I mentioned. When at last I got off the phone, and we sat down to a very late dinner, I ate a big slice of pound cake. There are stressful moments when comfort food is very difficult to resist. This, I regret to admit, was one of them for me.
Second – My mom is fortunate that she has her own checking account with enough money to buy groceries. I am horrified at the thought of couples whose only account is frozen when one of them dies. I can easily imagine a scenario where the widow or widower would have to borrow money from family or friends to pay for basic necessities during the 2-3 months it takes to probate a will. Don’t think you could depend on credit cards! One of my Dad’s cards was cancelled out right. The other card was frozen until my Mom could reapply.
I know that no one wants to think about death. but I strongly suggest that you ask your banker what would happen if someone in your family died. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to unneeded stress.