Sunday, November 9, 2014


What follows below is Part I of a three-part commentary I began writing several months ago. (Parts II and III will follow within a few days.) It is common knowledge that the red tape for a deceased person's survivors can be overwhelming. There were times when I became incensed over the hoops I had to jump through, and the meaningless expressions of sympathy that were part of the hoops.

I wrote these three pieces imagining a readership of hundreds of thousands--maybe the same people who get AARP publications. It felt good to express my anger--something that most bereaved people feel--at a corporate giant of a bank. Now I offer them with a little-bit of embarrassment . . . because I'm feeling better and--to quote Jay--"It is what it is." Nevertheless, I hope a few readers will enjoy them.
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Bank of Numerica notified me of my husband’s death, just in case I wasn’t aware of it. After all, it was a busy time, what with family visits, interment arrangements, a memorial gathering to plan, donations and gifts of food and flowers to acknowledge, not to mention the time that weeping takes up in a situation like that. It’s possible, I suppose, not to have noticed my husband’s body, moldering somewhere in the back of the house.

After expressing its sincerest condolences, the letter from B of N informed me that I had a finite number of days before I needed to produce a death certificate, apparently in the odd chance its trustworthy source (unnamed, but most likely Social Security or Medicare/Hospice) had made an error. But even if I concurred with its fact finding and agreed my husband was dead, I would be required to send the bank a certified copy of the death certificate—a twenty-dollar expense for me—to prove it. I was afraid to read ahead to see what would happen to the bank account if I failed to comply, but in deference to my Scots ancestors, I decided to take a death certificate into the local B of N branch to save the twenty bucks.

As I drove the three miles to the branch, I told myself  I was making a reasonable request. Surely locally hired bank employees would have the same ability as the employees working in the out-of-state Estate and Trust department,  in terms of inspecting a document for authenticity.  Back when I was working, I routinely signed affidavits stating I had seen―with my own two eyes―the social security cards of new employees, then photocopied the cards for the permanent files. Surely someone at the local B of N branch could examine the official “certified copy” of death certificate and swear they’d seen the real thing?  Also, I remembered that my local branch had an in-house Notary Public who would be empowered to vouch for the certificate’s legitimacy. As I mused on how companies routinely convert paper to electronic files, I became more confident in my decision to visit the branch.

After being shown into the personal banker’s office, I explained to my hostess the reason for my visit.  She offered her sincerest condolences. However, her answer to my request was a straightforward NO.  Despite the fact she was dubbed my personal banker, she could not possibly vouch for the certificate I’d handed her. I must mail it, as instructed, to the Estates and Trusts Department of the bank—many states and several time zones away—where someone (clearly a worker with superior powers) would enter it into a permanent file.

OK, I complied.  Ten days later, accompanied by “Our sincerest condolences for your recent loss,” I received a new account agreement to sign. Mission accomplished: The slate was erased! Years of banking history were obliterated, and I must start over with a new account agreement.   

When the time comes to close the account, I shall surely offer the Bank of Numerica my condolences.  

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