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After the loss of a loved one, shutting down utility bills and accounts may seem like the last thing you want to do. While there are certainly other tasks that are of a more time-sensitive manner after the loss of a loved one (see our Funeral Planning Checklist), eventually all their utility accounts and professional services will need to be canceled or transferred depending on your loved one’s or family’s particular situation. This will usually take place once the executor (the individual responsible for the deceased’s estate) settles the estate during the probate process.
Below is a list of some accounts that your loved one may have had and may need closing, followed by information on how to go about canceling or transferring different types of accounts.
Examples of Utilities that may Require Closing
- Mobile Phone
- Traditional Phone (Landline)
- Natural Gas
- Heating Oil
- TV (Cable or Satellite Dish)
- Security System
- Gardening Service, Pest Control, or Pool Service (if applicable)
- Any maintenance services (for example an air conditioner maintenance service)
- Any subscription services (such as prescription drugs or monthly subscription boxes)
- Streaming services (Hulu, Netflix, others)
- Prescription services
Changing the Account Holder
To change the account holder to yourself or the executor, you will need a copy of the death certificate to prove the date of death to the customer service representative. You should also have a copy of a past invoice or bill, as they usually have important information such as the account number and method of payment on them. It is possible you may also need your loved one’s social security number. To make things easier you may wish to change the contact information if the utility is to be kept on (see below), that way customer service can call your phone number or contact your email address for all future bills or issues.
Canceling a Subscription or Utility
Many types of subscriptions cannot be transferred and are irrelevant for settling the estate of the person who died, so they can be canceled as soon as possible.
Many utilities can be left on if there is no one in the home, the reason being that if electricity, gas, or water are turned off there may be damage done to the home, due to weather, temperature, or simply from having the systems no longer running normally. The same can be said for the security systems, even if you have asked the police or neighbors to keep an eye on the home while it is empty (see Funeral Planning Checklist), it is still advisable to have a security system on to protect any of your loved one’s property within the home while it is vacant.
Phone Numbers, Email Accounts, and Social Media
Subscriptions or services such as email, phone, or other types of communication should not be turned off. They should be used to collect communications from utility companies or other creditors. By leaving these types of accounts open you will hopefully receive a call or email for monthly statements and invoices if you have missed a bill. This will be very helpful if you were unable to track down a subscription or service in your loved one’s records. Other utilities such as traditional phone lines, mobile phones, and email accounts should also be left alone until all bills are resolved and the estate is wrapped up. Social media accounts can be memorialized or shut down as they will not be used for communications purposes by the estate, with the exception of Facebook, Google, another social media service to login into certain accounts.
Credit Cards and Bank Accounts
Credit cards and bank accounts are usually the responsibility of the executor or the personal representative (the individual responsible for the deceased’s estate). They will generally take care of final bills and any legal and financial work that has to be resolved before any money or property can be given to heirs of the estate. The above information is meant to make sure your loved one’s property is kept in good condition and lines of communication between creditors and your loved one’s estate can be maintained until the executor is finished wrapping up the estate.
As a general rule, basic utilities and channels of communication should not be canceled, while forms of entertainment can be canceled immediately. This task is easier if the deceased leaves a significant other who will need the same services and utilities as before. You should make sure to communicate to the executor and their significant other (if applicable) to make sure that nothing is canceled that shouldn’t be and that anything that can be canceled is done so to preserve assets for the estate.
The information provided does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, accounting or tax advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.