Column: Kiss My Mortgage Payments Good-Bye

By Susan Parker
Tuesday October 31, 2006

I went to the Wells Fargo branch closest to my home in order to close Ralph’s checking account. I could have emptied it by using his ATM card, but our mortgage is automatically withdrawn from this account on a monthly basis. I needed to officially close it and get the automatic payments stopped.  

I gathered up my Power of Attorney papers, a death certificate, recent bank and mortgage statements, stood in line, and waited for an available teller.  

“I’d like to close my deceased husband’s account,” I said.  

“You can’t close it for 90 days,” answered the young man behind the window.  

“Why not?” I asked.  

“Policy,” he said.  

“All right,” I said. “I don’t have to close the account right now, but I’d like to stop the automatic payment to the mortgage company. As you can see,” and here I showed him Ralph’s bank statement, “there’s not enough money to cover the mortgage this month. Remove the auto pay and I’ll wait 90 days to close the account.”  

“I can’t do that,” said the man. “You’ll need to call your mortgage company.”  

“I already have,” I said. Again, I showed the man the statement. “You can see right here that the money is withdrawn by Wells Fargo, not Citimortgage.”  

The teller looked at the statement, and then tapped some keys on his computer keyboard. He squinted at the screen in front of him. “Sorry,” he said without looking at me. “You’ll have to wait 90 days.”  

“Can I speak to a manager,” I said.  

A manager appeared at the clerk’s side. He, too, squinted at the computer screen, punched some more keys and then looked at me. “Sorry,” he said, “But we can’t do nothin’.”  

“Nothing,” I said. “You can’t do nothing.”  

“Yes,” he said in agreement.  

“Can I put money into the account?”  

“Oh yeah,” said the manager. “You can put money in, you just can’t close it.”  

“That doesn’t seem right,” I said.  

He shrugged.  

“Do you have a complaint form I can fill out?”  

“No,” said the bank manager. “No form.”  

“Then how do I make a complaint?” I asked.  

“Tell us your problem and we’ll discuss it at our next staff meeting.”  

“How do I know you’ll really discuss it?” I asked.  

“You don’t,” said the manager.  

I gathered up my papers and left. Maybe I could get the mortgage money from Ralph’s E-Trade account and transfer it to the Wells Fargo account.  

When I got home I called E-Trade. The customer service representative said it was easy to close an account. She told me where on their website I could go to download the proper forms. All I needed to do was to send them in with a letter of instruction and a death certificate. I printed out the forms but completing them wasn’t easy. I recalled E-Trade and asked for help. The man on the other end of the line didn’t know what forms I was talking about so he transferred me to someone else. A woman came on and methodically clicked off instructions. After some confusion we discovered that we were each looking at different versions of the same forms. “It doesn’t matter,” said the woman. “They say the same thing. Just fill ’em out and send in a death certificate, a letter of instruction, and a letter of testament from an attorney.”  

“My instructions say I need only a death certificate and a letter of instruction.”  

“Better get an attorney’s testament,” she said.  


“I’m looking at your husband’s account right now,” said the woman. “He’s got $700 in stock. That’s hardly worth worrying about.”  

“Excuse me,” I said.  

“You know what I mean,” she answered. “We’re not talking a lot of money.” She paused, but only for a second. “Is there anything else I can do for you?” she asked.  

There was. It began with the word “Kiss”, but I didn’t bother to say it.