Banking Blog

Finance Blogs » Banking » Woman’s auto bill-pay hid death

Woman’s auto bill-pay hid death

By Allison Ross · Bankrate.com
Friday, March 7, 2014
Posted: 4 pm ET

A Michigan woman who died in her home at least six years ago was found this week after her home went into foreclosure and a contractor sent by the bank discovered her, according to a story from the Detroit Free Press.

The reason it took so long to find her: She had set up automatic bill-pay. For years, her bills were paid automatically from her bank account, leaving people to assume all was well until her $54,000 bank balance finally dried up.

This is less a story about financial management than it is about how a person can go without being found for years. And we've sadly seen similar stories in recent years (Note: There was a great read in The Palm Beach Post last year called "What happened to suburban Lake Worth couple in Condo #1223?")

Still, the story of this Michigan woman is a somewhat strange reminder of the benefits and pitfalls of setting up automatic bill-pay.

Bankrate has written before that automatic bill-pay can help avoid late fees and provide peace of mind that high-priority bills are getting paid, even when you're busy or traveling.

But the decision to go to automatic bill-pay shouldn't be an automatic one. Bill-pay makes it easier for you to forget to keep a close eye on your finances and gives you less incentive to make sure you're being charged the right amount. In other words, it's easy to lose tabs on those bills and how much is leaving your account.

Often, it's better to set up automatic bill-pay using a credit card rather than a checking account so there are fewer worries about overdrawing. Doing it that way also helps with disputes over a charge or automatic payment. However, if you don't pay off that credit card at the end of the month, you're essentially paying interest on those bills. And if you get a new card, you might have to update all your automatic payments, Consumer Reports notes.

A report last month by Personetics Technologies found that two-thirds of people who use electronic payments have some sort of automatic bill-pay. However, of those people, only 35 percent automate payments of their credit card bills.

Do you use automatic bill-pay? If so, are there certain bills you don't set up to pay automatically?

Follow me on twitter: @allisonsross.

«
»
Bankrate wants to hear from you and encourages comments. We ask that you stay on topic, respect other people's opinions, and avoid profanity, offensive statements, and illegal content. Please keep in mind that we reserve the right to (but are not obligated to) edit or delete your comments. Please avoid posting private or confidential information, and also keep in mind that anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

By submitting a post, you agree to be bound by Bankrate's terms of use. Please refer to Bankrate's privacy policy for more information regarding Bankrate's privacy practices.
5 Comments
crystal
July 19, 2014 at 11:12 am

whats up with more info on the dead woman, this article seems cold hearted and highly insensitive toward this woman's death, two sentences about her and then the rest focuses on advertising automatic bill pay as if that is the only concern here!!?? disgusting!!

Martin
July 18, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Suzy... she may not have had a car, nor needed snow removal. Taxes... if you are not earning and no income is reported then IRS won't do anything if no return is filed. A landscaper could have been on a monthly contract to mainitain, all paid from bank acct. The only puzzle is mail delivery, what was happening there.
Still it's a sad comment on our society that no neighbor noticed or wondered why they had not seen her.

elizabeth
July 18, 2014 at 10:22 am

this goes to show what this world has come to. people do not care about neighbors or sometimes mainly the elderly. I have had young kids in my neighbor bully me and I did nothing to them. in my day we always knew are neighbors and were in touch with them. I am 77 years old and had 5 children but everyone now is too busy to take time to check on neighbors or elderly relatives.

Suzy
July 18, 2014 at 6:52 am

The mail part confuses me. Also what about the lawn, snow removal, car not moving, taxes not filed, etc? Who was taking care of those things?

mary heath
July 10, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Did she not have any neighbors or mail delivery.Such a sad story

Add a comment

(Comments may take 5-10 minutes to appear)