Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Can anyone recommend a good bank?

So your wife, business partner, best friend and co-parent of four lovely daughters, up and dies.

That in itself is not good.  No, my friends, not good at all. However, during your period of grief and, after more than 39 years of living with and for a partner and now having to learn to live by and for yourself once again, you will have some nagging little problems that must be dealt with as a consequence of this unfortunate circumstance.  

But you would never assume that one of these nagging little problems would be having to fight your bank of more than 41 years, which just decided to give you the brown shampoo. 

But the Bank of America just did that to me.  In spades (can I still say that?).

It seems that our BofA business checking and savings account, opened back in 1979, had only my wife as the signatory.  For some reason, perhaps because she was the one responsible for paying the bills and handling the checkbook for our family and bizz, she neglected to add me as one of those authorized to sign on the account. So, shortly after her passing, BofA contacted me with some startling, and quite unwelcome, news.  They'd placed a "hold" on the business account,  and automatic payments we'd arranged started bouncing around like BB's in a boxcar. The BofA had glommed onto the money therein and informed me in no uncertain terms that I had many, many hoops to jump through if I wanted to get my money back.  

First, they said, I'd have to call a certain number to get the ball rolling.  I did.  The guy on the other in of the phone was some French dude officed in Albuquerque.  Not only was he rude and unfeeling and insensitive about my situation, he told me I'd be lucky to get my money back before summer's end. Really.  When I blanched at the information he offered, he asked, all French-like, "Well what do you want from me?" When my response to that question was admittedly high in decibels, he hung up on me. I guess he's not aware we saved his miserable country's bacon back in WW Part Deux.

They sent me a whole bunch of forms.  Forms that had to be filled out and signed in front of a notary.  I had to wait more than a month for the death certificate, a necessary item, they said, while they counted my money.  And then I went to local branch to get them to notarize the forms.  Uhhh, no.  The local branch didn't have a notary, they told me. So, off to the UPS Store.  They were eager to assist me, for the grand sum of $15.00 for each signature.  That's fifteen bucks I'd never see again.  Then, I had to call their Estate Division to get the file opened and the process started. 

After more than 2 hours on hold, a guy came on to let me know I had a lot to do before I'd be able to close the account and get my money back. I had to have a special "signature card," which only they could provide. The guy said they'd mail it to me, which should only take a week or two, or maybe more, (or maybe never!) to arrive. Then, he told me I had to fill it out and mail it back.  Along with another special form, called the "California Small Business Affidavit."  When I asked if they could provide one, he said, "No."  Just go on Google, he said, and find it on the Internet. Nice.  They need a form that they don't provide. That's customer service for you.

So after quite a search I found such a form.  It cost "only" $5.00 to download.  I filled it out, and then noticed that it required TWO witnesses, which had to sign it in front of a notary.  A notary, again.  Oh, and my signature had to be notarized as well.  So I ran down a couple of relatives, and made arrangements for them to meet me at that same UPS Store.  That guy got another $45.00 from me just for being in my neighborhood.  So, if you're counting, that's a total of $60.00 so far that I'm out just preparing to prove to BofA that I am the lawful heir to my wife, a fine woman who I joyfully permitted to use my last name for more than 40 years.  But BofA couldn't quite get their arms around that fact. They couldn't seem to draw a connection between "Cassity & Associates," the name on the account, and Cassity, the Chuckmeister's last name.  Even though the spelling of my last name is quite rare, they just couldn't bring themselves to draw a connection, I guess.  They wanted some forms, don't you know.  They really, really need them, they said. They LIKE forms!

So once I'd filled out and signed all the necessary forms, except for that elusive "blank signature card," which STILL hasn't arrived, I called that same 800 number again.  Another 1.5 hours on hold.  A woman named "Diamond," from Atlanta, came on the line. She told me that all I had to do was go to the nearest branch and they'd download and print the form for me, and then notarize it.  I explained, somewhat loudly, I admit, that the branch manager said they couldn't do that, and didn't have a notary. She got mad and hung up on me.  I was at this exact point that I decided in no uncertain terms that whatever is left of my future did not include the Bank of America.

So, once the form arrives, maybe next week, I'll fill it out, and fax it back, along with the death certificate, and the "Letter of Instruction and Account Closure Request," and a couple of other forms that they provided me.  And then, they said, they'd get in touch with me to advise the other stuff they'd need in order to proceed.  And all this time they've got, and are using, my money.

Oh, and I might mention that I've been signing checks on this account for more than 35 years.  And they've been cashing them! Without fail. And for all those years, they just told me, I was not permitted to sign checks on this account.  You'd think a more than 100 year old bank, one that is among the largest in our great country, could figure out how to actually serve its clients.  But you'd be wrong.  

So, you'll understand that I'm more than a little miffed at BofA.  Miffed enough to look for an alternate bank to hold my less-than-vast fortune. A fortune which has been seriously depleted due to my poor departed wife's nasty disease and its treatment.  So any suggestions you might have about another bank I'd really appreciate.  If you've got a recommendation please get back to me.  And be sure to let your friends and neighbors know that, if they intend to die some day, and care about their prospective heirs, be sure to tell them to think carefully about the bank they choose to do business with today...

At the beginning of this posting I asked if anyone could recommend a good bank.  Do you think that might actually be an oxymoron?