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Having a hard time taking my wife off of accounts, etc...Is anyone else having trouble? Is it important?

Its been 15 months that Ive been without my wife. Just last week was I able to make myself go to the bank with a copy of the death certificate, and remove her from our (my :( ) accounts. I still need to go to my other bank and go through it again, but I just cant seem to do it again, at least not yet. I bought a different house last year, the abstract lady told me I need to remove her from the title on the other house. I just cannot bring myself to do it. And, Im really not sure if I need to. If I sell it, I could just do it then. If I die, they will still have her death certificates, they can work it out then. Right? Is there any reasons why I need to do this? Is anyone else experiencing the same difficulties? I suppose I am still having trouble letting go. More denial. If I did it, it just seems more final. Sometimes I feel like Im crazy! Although probably normal among most here, lol.

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So sorry you are going through this. As far as the real estate goes, the first thing you have to determine is how you and your husband held title to your house. If it was as "tenants by the entirety," or joint tenants with rights of survivorship, that means you and your husband owned the property jointly and that when one of you died, the entire property was owned by the survivor. No probate is required. Title transfers "by operation of law."

While you can take steps to remove his name, since you own the entire property, it really does not make a difference whether you do that. If and when you sell the house, all you will need is a certified copy of the death certificate.

If, on the other hand, the property was titled as "tenants in common," that means that you owned a percentage of the house (usually 50-50) and your husband owned a percentage. In this case, you will have to probate your husband's estate, although state laws differ on how difficult this will be.  I hope this was helpful.( I still haven't taken my husband's name off our real estate.)  

I am not sure what the laws are in your state ... and if I hadn't had to go through probate (which just closed two weeks ago) for some of my husband's estate, I don't know how quickly I would have moved on getting everything titled correctly.  Some of it was simply brutal.  My husband died in July 2012, and his probate lasted 17 months.

My question would be this:  if the assets are not properly titled, how does that affect your beneficiaries/heirs if the unthinkable happens again?  I put my estate plans in place a month after my husband died because I did not want my family to go through the lengthy, expensive mess that is California probate.

I do understand the finality of it all.  As stressful as the entire process was, I was a mess on the day of the final probate hearing and I wasn't even in court.  It felt like he had disappeared in yet one more way, and that broke my heart.

This is a situation where some things must be done to remove names. It starts even with the IRS and sometimes social security. There will always be times when we will have to face it but one thing to note is credit cards. It is wise to cancel and remove your spouse from them. If they had cards in just their name only, you could be held liable for charges that may occur even if they are not used.  Look at it this way. You are not ending your loves existence. You are securing your own. They would want you to be safe and protected. You can still keep some things alive.  My wife Kathy still is on my answering machine at home. I still have her drivers license in my wallet. Her name is on the license plate of both of our cars now. Oh and yes, I will never sell her car.

And by the way, I checked on protection of my property, and since we had joint tenancy with right of sole survivorship, I have no worries, and neither do you if you have it that way. At least in Arizona

One other thing to ad is checking with your insurance agent to be sure you are not exposed should you not be covered due to incorrect names of insured. I was advised that I needed to sign a copy of a letter to my insurance company of my wife's death.

I empathize with you Jake. Fifteen months is still a very tender time. Good thoughts to you.


I cancelled his credit cards fairly quickly since someone was trying to steal his identity.  I am three years out and still have not taken his name off our houses or utilities.  Left one bank account in both names and it was convenient for some checks that came in his name months later.  I changed his vehicle after about 9 months as I sold it.  Boats and other toys are still both names.  Not selling them -  don't care.

since all of our accounts were separate (I own the house in my name only and always have), I didn't have to hurry to close accounts, but he had a bunch of automatic payments set to be paid out of his bank account and some credit cards.  I stopped the ones I knew about, but others kept popping up, so I closed all of the accounts.  There are still some things that I have to do, like a small stock account and another account that pays a check every month.  Yesterday I went to the phone store and closed his cell account.  I called last week and they told me that without him giving the password, the account could not be closed.  It took almost an hour at the cell store, but the lady who helped me was insistent that the account be closed, password or not, because she was looking at the death certificate.  It's absurd that some people at these companies work off of a script and do not think--how in the world can I get a passcode for an account when he is not here to give it?  I *think* everything is closed.  We will see.  

 Thanks for this question.I have not removed my husbands name from a lot of things yet coming onto the six month mark. But I recently received a check from a friend and it was a joint check and her beloved husband has been gone for a least 25 years so no rush.

This made me smile, daisy ... as I will probably be like your friend.  My bank called when they were notified by Social Security (his checks were direct-deposited). They wanted me to close our joint account and open up a new one in just my name. I didn't want to do that - we've had that account number for over 30 years and it was linked to many auto bill payments. I was in no condition to have to contact all of those places and give them a new number. So I cried ... and the guy felt sorry for me and allowed me to keep the account and just change the name on it. I don't write many checks, so the checks I have on hand with both of our names will probably last me my lifetime.

Vern died 9/22/10 - so I'm more than 3 years out. I've not had any issues with his name still being on the things we own jointly ... our home and our cars. When I went to Verizon to have his cell phone taken off the account, I was told it would be beneficial for me to keep the account in his name if I was ok doing that - so, of course, I did. Our utility bills are still in his name, too, because if I were to take him off I would be considered a new customer and would have to put down a deposit (so crazy since we've lived in this house for over 30 years and I've paid all of those bills). 

The only problem I've had was with my Discover card. I never took my husband off the account, but they stopped sending him cards and the bills started coming in my name. No big deal. But when I changed my password recently I wasn't able to access my online account. Ended up having to call and learned they did indeed still have my husband on the account because it was his mother's maiden name and his social security number that they needed. I didn't learn this until I was handed off to two other people because I had given incorrect information. Luckily the last person understood what the issue was and let me give the correct answers and then changed the account information. Much easier to deal with that kind of thing at 3 years than to have done it early on.

I guess I should also admit that I'm an expert procrastinator.

thanks Dianne, my hubby always said I was an amazing procrastinator, mainly because I never did our taxes until April. Strangely when I said he could take them to a professional for the last three years I still ended up doing them myself in April. This year I took them to a professional in April. I haven't changed the name on utilities or anything but I did make sure my name was on all of them with his ,decades ago ,not sure I will ever take his name off until I move to a different house.

I think whether assets need to be probated depends on the size of the estate, type of assets and local law.   It is best to consult with an attorney in these situations.

By the way.   I found some checks for a joint checking account we had with Washington Mutual.    The account was transferred to Chase Bank when WAMU folded during the financial crisis.    I asked someone at the local branch of Chase in Highland Park CA and they said the checks are still good.    I've been writing checks on the account with no problems.     

i remember calling 'Discover Card after my wife passed and the person at the other end said my wife would have to give me power of attorney before she could discuss the account with me.    I wanted to yell at her, but I realized she was reading from a script before I opened my mouth.    I just thought to myself, "there is nothing more I would want to see than my wife coming in through the front door so she could give me power of attorney."

I had a really difficult time with Telstra ( Australia) when I went to remove my husbands mobile phone from our " bundle" plan...... This was last November and up until last month I was still being charged for "cancelling" a plan before the contract expired!! This amounted to hundreds of dollars extra on my bill and every month when I received it, I would have to ring Telstra and go over the WHOLE thing again....only to be reassured it was all sorted then surprise, surprise....there would be the charge on my next bill..... Hopefully it's sorted now, but took so long and was so upsetting. It's just one more thing isn't it?
Just take your time doing all this.....

I agree on focusing on real property and big items of personal property (cars, boat) first. I probated my husband's will; there was really no need to since just about everything was joint with right of survivorship, so there were no estate assets to speak of, but it was worthwhile to get an executor letter, which came in handy for some transactions such as closing accounts, in addition to multiple copies of the death certificate. (You may be able to get additional death certificates at less cost from your state's vital records department than going back to the funeral home.) Anyway, probate took ony about 15 minutes, a small fee, and the probate clerk gave me a wealth of valuable information, e.g. regarding how household goods are treated in my state.

I also have an attorney doing my new will, advance directive, and power of attorney and he has come in really handy for questions such as yours. He knew all about the precedence of funeral expenses and family maintenance over creditor claims, it is very state-specific. Intially I was wondering if If I felt a sort of a moral obligation to pay off credit cards that were only in my husband's name, but after discussing with the attorney what was legally required, I realized that the credit card companies had made a business decision to lend to my husband and take the risk that there would be outstanding balances upon his death, and there might be no estate assets to cover them.

The attorney also warned me that collection departments would not understand the nuances of state law (or might try to tell me differently) and might be calling. I got one call already and just said, "You need to contact the attorney handling estate matters, so-and-so at such-and-such number." That got them off the phone right away. I need to be businesslike too and consider my children's and my rights and needs.

Mike has been gone almost 3 years and I haven't taken his name off of anything. I asked the bank teller and she said there was no rush so I am still hanging in there. I had to argue with the woman at the property tax office to keep his name on the deed but she finally relented and left me alone. As far as property tax records go I just felt that was a security issue and I didn't want to advertise in anyway that I am here alone or that I am a widow. I probated the will and closed his credit cards and that was it.

Yeah I think it is a little denial but I like seeing his name on the mail.


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