When Kim Gerdes of Cuyahoga Falls phoned me recently, she was in a bind. ?Her 84-year-old mother was in the hospital with a fractured pelvis. Her mother was due to be released from the hospital and would be moving permanently from the family home to live with Gerdes.
But when her mother had canceled her Time Warner Cable account, which she and her late husband had for 42 years, Time Warner issued her $72.97 credit on her account to her late husband.
Herbert Gerdes passed away three years ago from Alzheimer’s, but like many widows, Barbara Gerdes never got around to updating her account to her name. Her daughter, Kim, pointed out that Time Warner had no problem accepting checks from Barbara Gerdes after Herbert died.
While Barbara Gerdes was in the hospital, Kim Gerdes tried to take the check to the Chase Bank branch where the couple had banked for many years. But after Herbert died, he was removed from the account and Kim’s name was added.
A teller told Kim Gerdes that the check could not be accepted. The teller suggested Gerdes ask Time Warner to reissue the check in her mother’s name and supply a copy of the death certificate.
When Gerdes went to a Time Warner office, she was told the check could not be reissued.
“I just felt there was no human side here,” said Gerdes.
Furious at Time Warner, Gerdes phoned its executive offices before reaching out to me.
In the end, Gerdes was told that there was nothing Time Warner could do, except reissue the check to the estate of a deceased relative so an executor can handle the check or the family could go to probate court.
Gerdes said her parents were not wealthy, the couple did not have a will and the family did not go through probate court after her father died.
Time Warner spokesman Mike Hogan said the company’s hands were tied, and refund checks needed to be written to the account holder or estate.
It seemed as though the Gerdeses might be in possession of a check that was worthless.
I suggested to Gerdes that we try to see whether Chase Bank officials would reconsider cashing the check since Herbert Gerdes had once been on the account.
In the end, that’s what happened.
Chase spokeswoman Emily Smith said the original teller was not wrong in not accepting the original check, but bank officials wanted to make the exception based on the Gerdes family’s long relationship with the bank.
“We normally would not negotiate a check for someone that is not on the account or is deceased,” said Smith. “The check [was] made payable to an individual that is not a signer on the account. The check in question could be returned for improper endorsement.”
Smith said if readers find themselves in a similar situation, “they should schedule time to meet with their personal banker or branch manager. This will give them the opportunity to sit down and have a discussion about their circumstance. It can be very overwhelming after experiencing the lost of a loved one and we want to help guide our customers with their financial questions and needs. In good times and in bad, we want to be there for our customers.”
Gerdes was able to go to the bank branch and deposit the check. She’s grateful to Chase, but still is unhappy with Time Warner.
“If that’s their legal right, that’s fine, but she was a customer for more than 40 years. I want them to do the right thing, especially for our elderly,” Gerdes said. “At least the bank had the human compassion side.”
But just when we all thought this situation was wrapped up last week, Gerdes noticed on her mom’s online bank account that Time Warner had stopped payment on the check and Chase charged her a $12 returned check fee.
It turns out that when Gerdes had started the ball rolling with Time Warner’s executive offices before reaching out to me and before knowing Chase would make an exception, the Time Warner folks said they would re-issue the check to the estate of Herbert Gerdes.
When Time Warner did that, it stopped the payment of the first check Gerdes deposited. Gerdes said she didn’t realize at the time what she was agreeing to when she said they could re-issue the check.
It looks like everything will work out, as Chase officials the next day waived the $12 fee and coordinated with Time Warner and its branch the Gerdes family uses to cash the new check when it arrives.
The situation in which the Gerdes family found itself is a good segue to review steps that families can take after a loved one passes away to update accounts. See the accompanying sidebar with this story.
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