We take it as almost an article of faith that our social media accounts will live on after we die. But what about the contracts we enter into with cellphone providers?
There’s an ugly story out of Wales involving a 57-year old man named David Raybould who was paying T-Mobile UK roughly $40 (£26) for service when he died in August from cancer.
David’s bill was being paid by monthly auto-debit directly from his checking account. His grieving widow Maria and his son decided it would be best if the son went to a T-Mobile UK storefront to cancel the account. Seems pretty straightforward so far, right?
Woman harassed for money after T-Mobile UK snafu
Upon getting to the store, the son was told he would need proof of his father’s death. So he brought back a death certificate, which was copied and supposedly sent on to a head office.
But the bills kept coming, so Maria herself decided to go in person herself to the storefront. That would be the first of several trips, each getting crazier than the next.
“I’ve been up to the shop with the death certificate, with a letter from the crematorium, the funeral bills — even his ashes,” she told Wales Online. “I took in everything I could.”
Before I go any further, let me be perfectly clear: T-Mobile UK is not the T-Mobile we know here in America. The ownership and operation is completely different.
But the story doesn’t end here. Over the next several months, the surviving Rayboulds received a steady stream of bills, letters, texts, and even threats of having their property seized as the bills piled up.
No matter how many times Maria and the son tried to convince T-Mobile UK of David’s death, their entreaties fell on deaf ears.
T-Mobile UK has since settled the matter — very belatedly. The last collection letter the family received was dated Nov. 8. By way of explanation, a T-Mobile UK spokesman told Wales Online the automatic process that should have canceled any remaining balance was delayed.
The company has since issued a formal written apology to the Raybould. It’s one of the rare instances of a big corporation actually saying “sorry.” But it should never have come to this.
Do you owe for the debt of a dead family member?
We’ve heard of private student loans haunting a late borrower’s family from beyond the grave. And big banks targeting widows over debts they don’t legally owe. But wow, this one with T-Mobile UK really takes the cake.
If you’re being hassled by a debt collector over the debt of a deceased family member, I want you to record the calls and then take those tapes to state or local authorities or to the media. The one thing that still works is shame, particularly when the collector is with a giant monster mega-bank.
In most cases, you have no legal obligation to assume the debt of a late spouse, sibling, or parent. But the collectors will never tell you that.
The only states where there is a possibility that a surviving spouse may have some responsibility for a debt are “community property states” — Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.
In such states, an executor/executrix or administrator (in the event there is no will) may be responsible for assessing the estate to see if there’s money to pay out to creditors.
But in general, if you get a call from these slimeballs at a time when you’re grieving like the Raybould family, know that you likely don’t owe them a penny.