Auto-Payments Don't Stop Just Because You're Dead

This article on Digital Estates is provided by Everplans — The web's leading resource for planning and organizing your life. Create, store and share important documents that your loved ones might need. Find out more about Everplans »

A woman named Pia Farrenkopf from Pontiac, Michigan had been dead for five years...and no one noticed.

Automatic payments make life so much easier. As long as you keep money in your bank account and pay the credit card associated with the utilities and services, everything is paid on time and late fees are a thing of the past. On the negative side, it can also mask your death.

Pia Farrenkopf from Pontiac, Michigan had been dead for five years...and no one noticed. Her neighbors thought she was traveling and mowed the lawn to keep things looking tidy. The Post Office collected all her mail so nothing piled up. Even when her bank account, which was being used to auto-pay her bills, ran out of money she still went undiscovered. The bank foreclosed on the house and still nothing. Then a contractor, who was sent to repair the roof, found her mummified body in the backseat of her car.

We're not here to rehash the entire story, which does have a few odd twists and turns. If you're interested it was widely reported by CNN, The New Yorker and USA Today. There's even a Facebook memorial page called "Mummified in Michigan," which was set up by her 19-year-old niece to honor her life and try and get answers.

There were a lot of extenuating circumstances as to why Farrenkopf went undiscovered. She lived alone, she recently left a job, she had lots of money in her bank account, Michigan has had so much economic turmoil that abandoned houses are quite common, etc... But it begs the question: If you died alone, how long would it take someone to find you?

If you're married or live with someone, probably not very long. But what if you live alone? What if you don't work a regular job? What if you go long stretches without talking to your family or close friends on a regular basis? And what if all the payments in your life are automated? It's as if you can live on forever...until a credit card expires or the money runs out.

This is why it's important to check on older or sick neighbors if you haven't seen them in a few weeks or during extreme weather. Same goes for people who have gone through a major life event (death, divorce, recent or long-term unemployment). Because while many people might have someone to be there for them, there are too many out there who don't.

Gene Newman

Editorial Director, Everplans

State-By-State Health, Legal, And End-Of-Life Resources

Digital Estate