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Sorting out the estate

I can see why solicitors charge a small fortune for acting as executors of a Will. It’s taking me around an hour a day, every day, to sort out Christopher’s estate – and that was with us knowing that he was dying so trying to get things straight beforehand. I’m trying to do one thing each morning, before I go to work, and another in the afternoon when I get home, as each delivery of post seems to bring yet more things that need to be dealt with.

I’ve got a huge long list of people to contact and things to do. As soon as I cross one thing off, more appear, so the list never seems to get any shorter. So far, people I’ve contacted include three banks, two building societies, three utility companies, three telecoms companies, the DVLA, Dept Work and Pensions, the taxman, the County Council for council tax, electoral roll, the life assurance company, his pension provider, three credit card companies, paypal, and sundry others.

It’s really fascinating seeing the difference in customer service ethos between the different organisations. Some will take my word over the phone and change things into my name there and then. Most want copies of the Death Certificate (good job I thought ahead and bought multiple copies of it when I registered the death, because only some companies send it back to me promptly). Some want copies of the Will too, and yet others want proof of my identity – up to and including marriage certificate, birth certificate, copy of passport and current utility bills as proof of my address. That last was difficult, as all of the utilities were in Christopher’s name, so I had to change those first……

I think the life assurance company was the easiest to deal with – after all, their business model assumes that a proportion of their customers are going to die in any given year, and their procedures were easy to follow and worked like clockwork.

The most challenging are the people who host the domain name and webspace. I strongly suspect that the companies involved were set up by eager twenty-somethings who haven’t ever acknowledged their own mortality, so haven’t thought through what needs to be done if one of their customers dies. I was told to fill in a form that needed Christopher’s signature (duh!) or to log in online using his password (ouija board anyone?). I had to bluntly say that No, I can’t do that because HE’S DEAD! That seemed to shock them into thinking of a way around it. However, I’m still not convinced that things have been transferred correctly into my name, so if this blog disappears overnight on 29th September it’s because they’ve tried to charge his (closed) paypal account, rather than my credit card.

One other memorable exchange was with O2, who have been providing a 3G connection for his iPad. I don’t need or want that, so I’ve been trying to cancel it. I noticed that a monthly debit was still appearing on one of his credit cards, even though I had notified the bank concerned, cut up the card and closed the account. Turns out he had given O2 a recurring mandate on his credit card, and that could not be stopped at the bank’s end – sounds like a bug in procedures to me. The executor is expected to know which companies have a recurring mandate, and to contact each of them individually to terminate the agreements – which I think is unreasonable. Anyway, I contacted O2 and it turns out that Chris was the first person in the country with an iPad 3G data plan to die – and they didn’t have a process for terminating the agreement! An order number was no good for actually identifying an order (!), and they couldn’t find him on their system using name, address or postcode! In the end I had to take the iPad apart to take out the SIM card (using a bent paper clip as I have no idea where he has put the Apple-approved SIM removal tool) and email O2 the text that was written on the SIM card. I’m informed that has now allowed them to trace the order and stop it – I’ll have to¬† look on the credit card next month to see if that’s indeed the case.

I’m still nowhere close to getting probate, which is needed before any of the banks will release his savings to me. But I’m planning on going to the hospice tomorrow to talk through the forms with one of their trained advisers. That should help me sort out what I need to do next in order to take the next step.

{ 3 } Comments

  1. frosty | 15 September 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    What a palaver! I have come across this type of scenario when we tried to sort out my father-in-laws estate but that was a few years ago and you live in hope that’s an isolated incident or things will improve. I hope the advisers will be able to ease the burden.

  2. Catharine Eastman | 15 September 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Good luck with everything. I recently had to do some of this sort of thing for my mother’s accounts back in March. (If English probate is anything like American probate, you can expect to wait for a year, or more – I hope your system is more efficient than ours!)

  3. David Allsopp | 15 September 2010 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    It’s bizarre that all these systems are set up as if death was some kind of rarity, when every large company must have customers pass away almost every day.

    Good luck with the remaining bureaucracy…