When preparing for your California Estate Planning, you are urged to avoid overlooking one aspect of your finances and financial architecture, which is various automatic and automated accounts. One common example includes auto-debit accounts for monthly and other recurring expenses like mortgage payments, internet service, streaming services, and cell phone service. It is, of course, very convenient to enable auto-debit and auto-payment features. It avoids hassle, paper, stamps, etc. However, death does not stop such auto-debit and auto-pay services. In one extreme example, a Pontiac, MI, woman passed away, and her auto-payments continued for a couple of years until her bank account was empty. She was not discovered until about five years after her death when her home was foreclosed by the mortgage holder. See media report here.
Now, of course, it may be valuable to the surviving family members to continue some of those auto-payment services for certain expenses like the mortgage, payments for streaming services, internet, wi-fi, other utilities, etc. But, at the same time, some more personal services — like an individual cell phone account — have no purpose once a person has passed. In brief, when engaging in California Estate planning, these sorts of automatic account services should be identified and audited, and careful thought should be given to how to handle them in the event of death.
What has been said about auto-payment services applies to other types of automatic accounts, including:
- Online auto-renew service and delivery accounts like pet supplies and coffee-of-the-month clubs
- Automated investment trading accounts — special attention should be paid to any auto-trade settings
If you need assistance with your California Estate Planning, call the Estate Planning attorneys at the Guardian Litigation Group. Contact us through our “contact page” or call by phone at (800) 316-3133. We are located in Irvine, CA.
What is to Be Done?
Wills and Trusts are not particularly effective tools for handling the termination of automatic services because, as noted, death does not automatically terminate the services. Rather, some action must be taken by a Personal Representative, an Executor, or a family member/friend. That being said, Wills and Trust documents are useful places to at least alert your Executor, family members, heirs, and friends that automated and automatic services need to be terminated.
The most effective method of handling this problem is to keep a list of such accounts and services along with account access information. This typically means the username and the passcode. This will allow your Executor or family members to access the accounts directly and go through the process of canceling the services, changing the settings, removing the credit card or bank account used for the auto-payment, or otherwise terminating the auto-payments or the recurring services from the “providers side.” This will not work with banks, however. So there is no easy method of terminating such automated accounts and payments from the “payment side.”
Contact Our Experienced Irvine, CA, Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, contact the Irvine, California, Estate Planning attorneys at Guardian Litigation Group. Our Mission is to provide unparalleled Estate Planning legal services for our clients. We can be reached via our contact page or by phone at (949) 444-5474. We are located in Irvine, California.