I want to talk to you about something serious. I've been working in the financial services industry for a little over a year and a half now. Week after week I work with clients who have recently lost a parent, sibling, relative or spouse. They come in armed with very little knowledge and large expectations. Every bank is a little different in their process in helping the families of deceased clients, but trust me, there is a process - and sometimes it's lengthy. It's not because they want to make what is an incredibly difficult time even more shitty. It's because there's a lot of risk involved in these situations. Bad people do bad things, and they make it harder on all the rest of us regular people.
For example, if your father dies, you do not get to walk into a bank with his death certificate and tell the manager that you need a check today. Not even if you have a will that says you're the executor. It's not as simple as that. When I tell you that your name isn't on the account, and I can't give you any information, please refrain from telling me that you're his only daughter - obviously you're a beneficiary ... it must be our mistake. Not the dead guy that I can't talk to about it. There is a process. There is paperwork. It's done to protect the client and the bank. Not you. You're not my client; he was.
So here's the hard part. I want you to sit down and have what could be a potentially uncomfortable conversation with that spouse, parent, sibling, maiden aunt - the list goes on and on. Ask them if they've put beneficiaries on their accounts. You may not like their answer, but you need to know it. If they don't want you as a beneficiary, tell them to put a trusted friend on it. For God's sake, put somebody on it - otherwise it just sits there until the state steps in. If they're getting older, ask them if they'd consider adding you as a co-owner on their accounts. Don't wait till the last second to get your power of attorney paperwork in order if they need that level of help. Don't just check on your elders for the snow shoveling. Talk to them about the scams that are out there, not to shame them, but to let them know you're their advocate.
And if they don't want to talk to you about it, you need to gently press the point until they understand that this is a big deal. In the last seven months, I have met so many grieving partners and children who have been burdened by a ton of work just to be able to have access to money to pay the bills or a funeral home. I've met mothers who have suddenly lost grown children, sisters who lost siblings unexpectedly, partners who told me that their beloved had only gone into the hospital for something minor, widows who swore he had only just been diagnosed. It can happen so quickly my friends.