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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.

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11 Comments
julia
August 31, 2014 at 10:54 am

NO KIDS OR FAMILY? No one checked on this lady in 6 years?

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