Bills and Services to Cancel – and Keep – When a Loved One Dies

A loved one’s passing is challenging on many different levels. In addition to the emotional difficulty of processing someone’s death, there are also the many tasks that must be dealt with, such as going through their various accounts and taking the necessary steps to cancel them or transfer ownership.

Most people have multiple accounts and services to deal with, from utilities, insurance, memberships, medical prescriptions, to digital subscription services and other recurring payment programs. Settling these accounts helps avoid unnecessary charges and protect against identity theft and fraud. If you have the duty to handle the outstanding accounts, you will first want to identify which accounts your loved one held and then figure out what to do with them.

Deciding Whether to Cancel or Keep an Account
First you must figure out what accounts the deceased had by looking through their mail, email, or phone notifications. If you are fortunate, the deceased may have compiled a list as part of their estate plan. Once you have identified what accounts were in the deceased’s name, you can move on to the next step of deciding whether to cancel or keep them.

Subscription Services
The typical American has multiple subscription services. If not on a shared family plan, these can most likely be canceled. These services may include Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, YouTube TV, Apple TV, and delivery services like Amazon Prime, Walmart+, as well as subscription box services.

Also keep in mind that Amazon Prime, Walmart+, and Staples members may have recurring monthly deliveries for certain items. And then there are digital subscriptions to newspapers and magazines, which may be linked to a Kindle account. Kindle Unlimited, which has 150 million subscribers, is yet another account that may need to be canceled.

Patronage Accounts
Another type of subscription to check for are those with independent content creators. Platforms that enable digital patronage include Patreon, Twitch, Substack, YouTube, and Facebook. Outside of these platforms, creators may enable patronage, such as subscriber-only content, through their own website.

You can check bank or credit card statements to find out if a loved one has any subscriptions to their favorite content creators. Like subscription services, patronage accounts are likely services that can be canceled.

Utilities may need to be temporarily kept in the deceased’s name, transferred to another account holder, or canceled, depending on the circumstances.

  • Keeping utilities in the name of the deceased should be okay on a short-term basis while the estate is resolved, but you might want to check with the utility company.
  • If utilities were in the deceased’s name and they lived with somebody else, the accounts should be transferred to that individual. The same goes for a family member who plans to take over occupancy or ownership. For example, the house may have been gifted to a beneficiary in the trust or established as family property with siblings owning jointly.
  • Utility accounts can be canceled following estate administration but consider the timing if the house is being put on the market. Typically, in the event of a sale, utilities are kept on until after closing.
  • Although not technically a utility, a home security system deserves the same consideration as utilities. Security is particularly important for a home that is left vacant for extended periods while settling the estate.
  • The deceased’s cell phone service should be canceled, but be careful not to deactivate the service until you have retrieved all of the information you need from the phone. You may important information on the phone, including notifications about bills and other services that need to be canceled or transferred.

Miscellaneous Accounts  
Many accounts fit into the main categories listed above, but it may take a thorough investigation to uncover every account linked to a loved one’s name. Here are some more examples of accounts you may need to resolve, either by canceling or, where possible, transferring account ownership:

  • Memberships to gyms, sports clubs, cultural institutions, unions, homeowners associations, Costco, and other fee-based groups or services
  • Physical newspapers, newsletters, and magazines
  • Social media and dating sites
  • Financial advisor, personal trainer, accountant, life coach, etc.
  • Pet-related dues and subscriptions
  • Meal delivery services
  • Music subscriptions (Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Sirius XM, etc.)

Probate, Estate Administration, and Executor Legal Assistance
Losing a loved one is never easy, and handling their financial affairs can be overwhelming. Being named an estate administrator or trustee comes with a lot of responsibility. Give us a call and let us help you through the administration process. We can assist you in meeting all legal requirements and honoring the wishes of your loved one.