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The challenge of closing accounts

Losing a loved one is never easy. You can be emotionally distraught and struggling to hold it together, but still have to handle the funeral and burial arrangements. The last thing you need is to explain to unsympathetic or inattentive customer service representatives why you need to close a credit card account and exactly why they can't speak to the actual account holder.

Yet, this is the painful truth for many people dealing with the death of a parent, sibling, spouse, child or a close friend. Even if somebody was well prepared, there is inevitably that one account, like a credit card, utility or bank account, which was missed or mishandled.

Many people think the Power of Attorney they executed protects them and their loved ones in these situations because it appoints somebody else to act in your stead regarding legal and financial issues. However, it does have some limits and, a major sticking point, is that it ends when you pass away. This means that any account funds will likely end up in probate and that your loved ones will have difficulty closing the accounts.

Financial experts suggest that one solution is to consider making a trusted loved a co-borrower or joint owner. Both options will lead to the surviving party being liable for any debt, but it also makes it easier to close accounts or divvy out assets. As a co-borrower or joint account-holder, your loved one would still have access to the account after your loved one's death.

It is also in your best interest to know the requirements for canceling all of your accounts. Some places, like utilities or internet service providers, require a copy of the death certificate as well as personal information and even then closing the account can be a nightmare. Sometimes you are required to blindly submit the death certificate multiple times before it actually reaches the right (translate: competent) person who can actually cancel the account in question.

What about those social media accounts, the pictures on Shutterfly or the voluminous iTunes library? These are all treated differently as well. On Facebook, you can designate a legacy account owner. As for iTunes, Apple is not going to let you transfer the music, movies and shows ot another person's account.

As uncomfortable as it is to consider mortality, handling these issues sooner than later will help save your loved ones save time and avoid hassle. Estate planners and financial advisors are excellent options for helping you and your loved ones map out the plan that works best for everyone.

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