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Press 1 to speak to a moron

imagesUWFGLBGSAn article recently appeared in The West Australian that is very relevant to us in the United States as well.  What happened to Carole Webb could happen to any of us.  I’ve copied the article in its entirety and hope it will goad you into sharing passwords and other information with your loved ones while you’re still able to do so.  That may not solve all of the problems Carole faced but it will definitely help.

“72-year-old Carole Webb was devastated when she lost her husband of 40 years.

As Mrs Webb writes in today’s Your Money, realising that the love of your life will never again walk through your front door is distressing.

Like all of us, Mrs. Webb knows that death is a part of life and understands that at some stage we will all have to deal with the loss of a loved one.

What this sprightly retiree does not understand is why this troubling time in someone’s life is made that much more difficult because of “morons” at banks and utilities.

The cause of her angst? Trying to change bills and accounts from her husband’s name to her own.

The Your Money team is sure that many readers will identify with Mrs Webb’s often humorous account of spending hours on the phone wading through layers of “Press 1 if you want to …”.

We are also sure many readers will agree that the companies and agencies which supply services to us could do worse than create a “bereavement hotline” to ensure this distressing time is not made worse by red tape.

WARNING CALL FOR BEREAVED

When Carole Webb was widowed, call centres added to her pain. Here’s what happened …

As a recently widowed pensioner, who cannot afford a solicitor to take care of the numerous legalities necessary, I wish to enlighten others to prepare themselves. Preferably, of course, all the major banks, utilities and any other companies that insist on using recorded “follow the prompts” methods of providing service to their valued customers. They may even learn a thing or two by reading my article and start to realise they are causing untold stress to thousands of seniors.

I have to say the easiest, simplest, kindest transition of all was with Centrelink. One of the telephone companies was by far the worst.

With utilities, because they insist you can only be allowed to have one name as the account holder, you need to notify them that the deceased is no longer the account holder, so your name needs to be placed on the same account and a new billing system started afresh.

It doesn’t mean a thing that you are still living in the same house, using the same appliances, showering at the same time in the same bathroom, with the same washing machine going, and with the same phone number being used, with the same email address being used, the same TV being switched on … Get my drift?

So is it really necessary to put the grieving widow/widower/spouse/partner through all the extra tasks needing attention when they are finding it difficult enough coming to terms with the death of a loved one?

Imagine the scenario if you were a 90-year-old with no family, not on the internet and living in a country town with a darling husband of 67 years having taken care of the business side of things all your married life.

Let me tell you about my own experience with the phone company.

I am 72 years of age and have a deaf aide phone but I am a pretty switched on.

Contacting the phone company to change names on the account involved following the prompts, which is very frustrating when the five minutes you spend with the polite female recorded voice has nothing relevant to what you want to say or do.

The voice continues: “I am sorry, what was that you said …” or “Did you say …” or “Can you say in a few words …” until in the end you are shouting. My neighbours must assume I’m going stir crazy. Anyway, this alerts someone eventually, after you have been put on hold for 20 minutes, and finally, bingo!

Guess what? The person you are speaking to sounds like they are two blocks up from “The Best Little Marigold Hotel” and can’t pronounce their words properly, so I am no better off in trying to have a conversation.

“Is it really necessary to put the grieving widow/widower/spouse/partner through all the extra tasks needing attention when they are finding it difficult enough coming to terms with the death of a loved one?”

After being put on hold yet again, I get a lovely lady who calms me down and sorts everything out. But not before another 20 minutes asking me questions, including “Do you own your own home?” What has this got to do with anything?

Finally, after threatening to go to another company, she finds me a nice little package which suits all my needs and is a lot cheaper. I thank her and suggest she mentions at the next training workshop that they consider having a “bereavement hotline” given to everyone and serviced by properly trained staff, equipped to reduce stress when changing names on accounts.

After a couple of weeks had passed, I received a cheque for the estate in my husband’s name, this was credit we accrued as we always had Centrelink deduct money from our pension fortnightly to forward to the utilities, so this meant we never received a bill.

I went to bank it at my new account I had opened in my newly chosen bank, but couldn’t because it was in my husband’s name. I was required to get a certified copy of my husband’s will, showing I was the executor and sole beneficiary as well as the proof I was who I said I was with ID etc worth 100 points.

So I first phone the phone company again to see if they couldn’t give me the credit into my phone account, as it was the same number and same address.

Oh no, that is far too simple! I had the same experience as the changing-the-name scenario. A very nice lady (a different one) calmed me down and promised me she would definitely recommend the “bereavement hotline” at the next training session.

I went to check my statement of the joint name account my husband and I had used for years, online, but access was shut down. I had never bothered to learn the password. I tried to get a balance the old way I always did, on the phone, before my husband learnt to do it online, and it also was shut down.

I phoned the bank helpline, the chap was sympathetic, helped me get my own set up but when it came time for the password, I needed a mobile phone.

I have a mobile phone but I don’t text and this was the only way he could send me my password. He thought this was very funny. I was ready to scream at him.

I had to physically visit an ATM or go to the bank, which is what I did. The young woman told me I needed probate and a copy of the will.

So as my husband and I had our will in safekeeping across the road from the bank at the solicitors, I told the girl I would pop over and collect it. The kindly receptionist at the solicitors (I knew her mother well) told me I didn’t need probate as all I had was the home, an old car and fortnightly pension, and probate would cost me $2000.

I went back to the girl at the bank and told her and her reply was “Oh, don’t you?” I asked her why she told me I would need it and her answer was “because someone else told me”. Clearly the big four bank’s could do more to train their staff in “bereavement issues”.

I haven’t had a chance to get to the motor registration people yet. I am hoping it is pain free.

As people are living longer and leaving behind older spouses and partners, it is high time something was done to warn people of the difficulties they may face.

It would have been common courtesy to have the bank inform me they were shutting down my access and would like them to help me set up a new password so I was prepared?

Or the phone company to enclose an explanatory letter advising me what I would need to do to enable me to bank the cheque?

Coming to grips with the fact that a loved one will never walk through the door again is awful.

And these morons don’t help one iota.”

For more information about end of life planning, go to our website www.diesmart.com.

Will you get a call from a debt collector?

debt-deathDid you know that if someone dies with unpaid bills like a balance on a credit card account, a family member or close friend will get a call or letter from a debt collector.

A few years ago, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) issued new guidelines related to this subject.  The guidelines “widen the universe of people who could receive collection calls or letters”.  This makes it very important that anyone receiving such a call or letter knows his legal rights and obligations.

Debt collectors read the obituaries and then check to see whether the person who just died has any surviving relatives.  If so, they immediately begin sending out letters or making phone calls and harassing them for whatever is owed.

Rules vary from state to state but, in general, here are a few things that usually apply.

  • Family members or friends are not obligated to pay out of their own pockets for debts incurred by a deceased person.
  • If a family member or friend has co-signed a credit card or loan application with the now deceased person, that relative or friend is probably obligated to repay the debt.
  • If the deceased left a will and the estate is in probate, debt collectors can attempt to collect their money from the assets of that estate.
  • Assets that are specifically bequeathed to someone or that were jointly owned by the deceased and another person generally go to that person outside of the estate and are usually not reachable by debt collectors.  In the 10 community property states, assets are generally considered joint property and can’t be touched by a debt collector.

What does this mean for you?  If someone close to you dies and  you are contacted by a debt collector, don’t give that person any information or commit to anything.  See assistance from a local credit counselor or attorney to get guidance on how to proceed.  Otherwise, you may find yourself paying money to a debt collector unnecessarily.

For more information about settling an estate, go to www.diesmart.com.

 

Apple says maybe” – Another digital death fiasco

A Ca51j2ST20YwL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_nadian, Peggy Bush, widow tried to get her deceased husband’s Apple ID password so she could continue to use apps that resided on their shared iPad.  She ended up being told by Apple support that she would have to produce a court order first.

Her daughter took up the fight and, after several weeks of customer support calls, writing to the CEO and going to the media with the story, Apple finally agreed “to help the family with their issue”.  Sounds good, right.  The problem is nobody is sure what this means.  Will Peggy get access to her husband’s account?  Nobody knows.

If this issue comes as a surprise to you, it shouldn’t.  Apple and most other companies have license terms that are quite clear.  There are no rights of survivorship.  In other words, when you die, your account dies with you.  In Apple’s terms:  “unless required by law, you agree that your account is non-transferable and that any rights to your Apple ID or content within your content terminate upon your death.  Upon receipt of a copy of a death certificate, your account may be terminated and all content within your account deleted.”

When most people are trying to get their affairs in order, they think about the tangible things they own.  They don’t think about their digital estate and how to provide access to online accounts for their heirs.

Although it is stated as not being legal in the terms and conditions of most online accounts, providing the user name and password for each account will enable your executor or other family member to access your accounts, close them, transfer date or even continue to use them.

To get more information about how to manage your digital estate, check out this book: ACCESS DENIED.  You’ll not only find valuable help but worksheets you can use as well.  Don’t leave a mess for your family.  Get all of your affairs in order now, including those related to your online life.

Why you need a living will & healthcare power of attorney

terri schiavo

Most people don’t like to think about what will happen if they’re in an accident or come down with a catastrophic illness.  They don’t decide who they want to speak for them if they are unable to communicate their wishes themselves.  They don’t tell anyone what kind of care they want….or don’t want.  Once they are hurt or incapacitated, it may be too late.

These are three reasons why you need a living will and a healthcare power of attorney:

1) You name the person you want to speak for you when you can’t.  It should be someone  you trust to make decisions on your behalf and to carry out your wishes.

2) You decide whether you want heroic measures performed to prolong your life if there’s no chance of recovery.

3) You outline the type of treatment you want to receive.

If you don’t have these documents, a relative you don’t know very well and don’t trust or possibly the courts will speak for you and decide what will happen.

For example, they may decide to put you on life support and prolong your life even though there is no chance of recovery and you may not have wanted heroic measures.  They may choose to perform a surgical procedure that you don’t want or they may decide to do something that is against your religious beliefs.

A living will enables you to describe the kind of care you want.

A healthcare power of attorney (It may be called something else in your state or it may be combined with a living will) allows you to name the person you want to be your healthcare agent who can speak for you when you can’t.

Unfortunately, a life threatening accident or a catastrophic illness can occur at any time.  There’s no age that is exempt.  Think of Terri Schiavo.  She was a 26 year-old that had a tragic fall, went into a coma and remained alive, hooked up to a feeding tube, in a vegetative state for more than 15 years because her husband and her parents couldn’t agree on her treatment and she hadn’t legally stated her wishes.

Don’t let others decide for you.  If you don’t have a living will and a healthcare power of attorney, get them drawn up right away so your wishes will be carried out and you will be able to speak for yourself….even when you really can’t.

For more information on this important subject, go to www.diesmart.com.

What Happens To Your Yahoo Japan Digital Assets When You Die?

On Monday, Yahoo Japan announced “Yahoo! Ending”, a program designed to help Yahoo Japan users plan for their death.   The search engine, in partnership with funeral services company Kamakura Shinsho, helps Yahoo Japan users make a will, find a grave, and plan their funeral.    Once Yahoo Japan confirms the user has died, the service will set up a memorial site, send out digital farewell messages, and delete personal data from Yahoo’s on line system.      In the future, Yahoo Ending could be expanded to work with credit card, insurance and other companies to manage a wider scope of personal data left behind when users pass away.

Yahoo Ending answers the question “what happens to your Yahoo Japan digital assets when you die”.  Once Yahoo Japan receives proof of death, Yahoo Japan assumes it has the legal authority to delete digital assets created and stored on Yahoo Japan.

In the United States, Yahoo digital assets are in fact part of the estate of the deceased.   Before we created our digital life, we stored photos and art in an album or a picture frame.   Our emails and text messages were paper letters and notes stored in a file cabinet.    When someone dies, the estate representative is required by law to take an inventory of property owned by the deceased and assign a value to the property, including their digital assets.    The estate representative is then required by law to dispose of property the deceased owned based on instructions left in a will or a trust, or state intestate laws if the decedent died without a will or a trust.   In today’s paper world, estate representatives or beneficiaries must provide documents providing they are managing the assets according to the wishes of the deceased.    In a paper world, proof of death does not trigger the automatic deletion or destruction of property owned by the decedent.

The question “what happens to our digital assets” continues to be the subject of legal debate as the internet service providers and the legal infrastructure grapple with the rules and processes for managing and disposing of digital assets that are in fact part of our estate.

We need programs and policies that don’t just deal with the death of the account owner, but also provide a way for trustees and conservators to manage our digital assets in the case of incapacity.

Related posts:

PC World – Dead In Japan

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