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How to Handle Utility Bills After Someone Dies

Handling the utility bills after someone passes away is another task that many families need to take care of, but may not know how best to handle. Here's what to know about notifying utilities companies after death, changing the name on utility bills after a death, and other information on what to do with the utilities when someone dies.

Before you start contacting utilities companies, you'll need to identify whether or not the utilities are continuing to be used. If utilities are being used, you'll need to follow different steps than you'd need to follow if the utilities won’t be used going forward.

What bills are considered utilities?

Bills that are typically considered utilities include sewer, gas, trash, electric, water, and recycling bills. Many people also consider internet, TV, phone, and security bills to be utility bills.

If the utilities are still being used

You may find the home in a situation where the utilities are still going to be used, even though the homeowner or person listed on the utilities bill has passed away. These scenarios occur most often when a spouse or family still live in the home or the home is rented with utilities in the decedent's name. If the utilities are being used, you will need to continue paying for the utilities.

Who is responsible for paying utility bills after a death?

The decedent's estate is responsible for covering the utility bills in the event that they're still being used and the utilities are in the deceased’s name. If the person who passed away left a will, the executor of the will is responsible for making sure these bills (and other bills) are paid accordingly.

If the decedent did not leave behind a will or name an executor, the state will appoint an executor or administrator to handle the estate and responsibilities that go along with that. This individual would be responsible for making sure the utility bills are paid and handled.

What if there's no money in the estate to cover utility bills?

In the event that the individual's debts outweigh the amount of money contained in their estate (including assets), the decedent's estate would be considered to be insolvent. If an estate is insolvent and there are no co-signers of the bills that need to be paid, these bills would go unpaid and the utilities would likely be turned off.

Handle tasks with our checklist

How do you go about changing the name on utility bills after a death?

If you're still using the utilities, you'll likely need to ensure that you get all of the utilities transferred out of the decedent's name and under someone else's name. To do this, follow a few steps:

  1. Locate all the utilities that need to be paid and are currently under the decedent's name. A few places you can search include file cabinets, the decedent's email inbox (if you have access), any stacks of mail or places where they kept bills and documents.
  2. Gather additional identifying documentation. Many companies or organizations are going to ask you for additional documentation that proves the individual is deceased and to prove your own identity. The documentation companies typically ask for include: a death certificate, a copy of your ID or license, the decedent's full name, the decedent's Social Security Number (or last 4 digits), the decedent's mailing address and residential address, and an account number.
  3. Once you've made a list of all the utilities that need to be paid and transferred (and have gathered the necessary documentation), you'll want to get in touch with each of those companies or organizations to begin the process of transferring them.
  4. Speak with the company about transferring the utility bills into your name. You may need to provide additional documentation to set up your own account, but the company will likely guide you through this.

Keep in mind that you're not required to stick with the same companies that the decedent used, especially if you can find better services or pricing elsewhere. This would be a good time to consider pricing and to consider whether or not you'd like to continue with the services you're paying for.

If the utilities are no longer being used

If the utilities are no longer being used and you'd like to cancel them, the steps you need to take will shift a little bit. You should get in touch with the different utility companies and cancel the accounts or ask that the utilities be turned off. You'll need documentation to accomplish this, so you'll want to make sure you're prepared before contacting the companies. Here's the steps to take if utilities are no longer being used:

  1. Locate all of the utilities that you need to cancel that are currently under the decedent's name. As stated earlier, utilities typically include water, gas, sewage, electricity, recycling, trash, phone, internet, and TV. It's highly recommended that you find a utility bill in the deceased person's name as that'll likely contain their account number, which you'll likely need to cancel the account.
  2. Gather required documentation. In order to turn off the utilities, you're going to need some documentation. It may be worth giving the utility company a call before searching for documentation to ask what kind of documentation they need in order to close an account, but in general, there are some standard documents you'll likely need to find. Documentation you'll need to close an account typically includes a death certificate, a copy of your ID, the full name and Social Security number of the decedent, the decedent's email address, residential address, and the decedent's phone number. You may also need to know the account number on the account (which is typically listed on a bill).
  3. Contact the utility companies and inform them that the person listed on the account has passed away and you're calling or contacting them to close the account immediately.
  4. Document your interactions with the utility companies and try to get a cancellation confirmation in writing or emailed directly to you so that you have proof of your conversation.

Is it illegal to keep utilities in a deceased person's name?

It is illegal to keep utilities in a deceased person's name if you're doing it to intentionally deceive the company in charge of the utilities. The different laws that apply here include both fraud and identity theft laws which carry some pretty heavy penalties. The best thing to do is to notify the utility company of the death as soon as possible and either get the accounts closed or transfer the accounts into someone else's name.

Handle tasks with our checklist

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Last updated February 25, 2022
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