Late fees and charges still apply

Published 8:31 am Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Received an email over the weekend from my pal Bobby “Keys” Eure. It should serve as a reminder of the hassles and red tape that family members have to deal with following the death of a loved one.

Bobby’s email told the story of two sons having to deal with the ginormous Social Security Administration in the months following their father’s death. Even though the brothers supplied SSA the required documentation that their father had passed away, SS checks were still being mailed. This went on for eight months.

After repeated efforts, one of the brothers finally got through and spoke to an actual SSA employee. They told him the money would have to be repaid; to which the good son replied that he had already returned (by mail) each of those uncashed checks.

Four months later, an SSA official called and asked one of the sons how long had their father been dead, to which a son replied, “When he drew his last breath.”

The sons never heard from SSA again.

Bobby’s next story was one I could really relate to because a similar thing happened to me while handling the estate of my mother back in 2003 and 2004. This story involved a deceased lady and her $0.00 balance credit card. It seems that if you do not cancel your credit card(s) just prior to death then the annual service charge, late fees and interest are continually added. When a family member noted a credit card bill of $60 some three months after their loved one had died, the following phone conversation took place with an employee of “Firm ABC”:

Family member: “I am calling to tell you she died back in January.”

Firm ABC: “The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.”

Family member: “Maybe you should turn it over to collections.”

Firm ABC: “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?”

Firm ABC: “Either report her account to frauds division or report her to the credit bureau, maybe both!”

Family member: “Do you think God will be mad at her?”

Firm ABC: “Excuse me.”

Family member: “Did you just get what I was telling you – the part about her being dead?”

Firm ABC: “Sir, you’ll have to speak to my supervisor.”

The supervisor gets on the phone:

Family member: “I’m calling to tell you she died back in January with a $0 balance.”

Firm ABC: “The account was never closed and late fees and charges still apply.”

Family member: “You mean you want to collect from her estate?”

Firm ABC:  (Stammer) “Are you her lawyer?”

Family member: “No, I’m her great nephew.” (Lawyer info was then given.)

Firm ABC: “Could you fax us a certificate of death?”

Family member: “Sure.” (Fax number was given.)

A return call was made after Firm ABC received the fax.

Firm ABC: “Our system just isn’t setup 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. She won’t care.”

Firm ABC: “Well, the late fees and charges will still apply.”

Family member: “Would you like her new billing address?”

Firm ABC: “That might help.”

Family member: “OdessaMemorialCemetery, Highway 129, Plot Number 69.”

Firm ABC: “Sir, that’s a cemetery!”

Family member: “And what do you do with dead people on your planet?”

And to think, Firm ABC was one of those that were bailed out by the feds.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal