Yes, that’s an item for the to-do list when a loved one dies, though it’s not likely to be high on anyone’s radar when the time comes. Sadly, “I didn’t know…” is a frequent refrain, particularly for elderly spouses, when the partner who “handled everything” dies. To help others avoid the challenges she’s experienced, a widow shares her insights.
Just Keep Paying?
Theresa Brooks and her husband, Henry, moved to Hampton, Virginia in 1988 and Henry died in 1996. As Theresa explained to News 3: “I never thought that he would die at an early age and it was just so hard for me because he was my everything. He was the one that took care of everything in the house…” Everything, included paying the bills. Though Theresa closed their joint bank account and opened one in her name— another to do list item—she never took Henry’s name off other accounts, such as the energy account. Bills continued arriving in Henry’s name.
Recently, over 20 years since Henry’s death, Theresa bumped into a new challenge: a check for $74.08 arrived from Dominion Energy, made out to Henry. It was a share of a settlement that had been reached in a regulatory case against Dominion Energy. When Theresa was unable to deposit the check, it came to light that the name on the account needed to be updated. Theresa did resolve the matter after a good deal of back and forth with the utility company. Noting that doing so was not about the money, Theresa shares this advice:
“When your husband dies, make sure you change all your utility bills into your name so you won’t have to go through this problem,” she said. “I think that we just have to care for one another, look out for one another in this world. I just wanted to share my story so somebody else won’t have to go through what I went through.”
News 3 reminds us that the big takeaways from Theresa’s story are: “create a will, pick a beneficiary and executor of the estate and plan ahead even if it’s uncomfortable to talk about.” Indeed! Besides all the other important reasons for advance planning, keep in mind that identity theft targeting the deceased is real. Active accounts bearing the name of a dead person are ready targets for cyber criminals.
The timing and sequencing of tasks that need to be attended to when someone dies are important. Naturally, grief can cloud our thinking and disrupt our energy. That’s why, although difficult, it’s always best when we have the opportunity to prepare ahead with family and friends, sharing our wishes, organizing our estate plans, and providing access to important documents. To that end, Foster Swift offers a comprehensive “survivor checklist.” Starting with immediate actions, including determining if the deceased arranged for organ donation, was entitled to VA services or left instructions about burial or cremation, the checklist moves on to actions like reviewing the estate plans and documents and securing online accounts, mobile phones and computers.
Prepare The Executor
Among the important decisions made when a will is created, is the designation of a family member, friend, or professional to administer the estate on behalf of the testator. Generally, this representative is referred to as an executor. When families have time on their side, is important to fully prepare the executor, ensuring they understand the commitment involved, and are armed with useful pragmatic information too, including how to access digital assets and account passwords.
Because an executor has a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the estate and beneficiaries, executor bonds are often called for, and sometimes specifically required during probate. Essentially, an executor bond guarantees the faithful performance of the executor in accordance with the law. Colonial Surety makes it quick and easy to obtain an executor bond: get a quote online, fill in the information and enter a payment method. The bond can then be e-filed or printed from anywhere—do it before leaving the law office, zoom room, or probate court.
Estate Planning Law Practice?
Colonial Surety has a full portfolio of easy, speedy fiduciary bonds including: administrator, estate, executor, guardian, personal representative, probate, surrogate, trustee, conservator and more. Use our fully digital fiduciary bond portfolio to reduce the time and expense typically associated with the bonding process. In addition to providing bonds directly to the general public, Colonial offers The Partnership Account® for Attorneys . This free business service provides user-friendly client management dashboards, enabling attorneys to easily coordinate, view, complete and e-file all the court and fiduciary bonds needed to keep clients and cases moving forward.
See for yourself today: The Partnership Account® for Attorneys.
Founded in 1930, Colonial Surety Company is a direct writer of surety bonds and insurance products. Colonial is rated “A Excellent” by A.M. Best Company, U.S. Treasury listed, and licensed for business everywhere in the USA.