TECH
05/08/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Verizon Bills Dead Man Bill Young, Says 'Death Certificate' Not Enough To Cancel Service

Don't die without sharing your PIN numbers.

That seems to be the lesson learned from Verizon's recent botched handling of a deceased man's account.

Bill Young of Calvin, W.Va died in June 2009, but Verizon Wireless continued to bill him until February 2010.

Young's daughter, Cynthia Lacy produced a death certificate for the company to certify her father's passing, but that wasn't enough for Verizon.

She was told by a Verizon representative that without her father's PIN (personal identification number), she was not allowed access to the account, reports the St. Petersburg Times.

The Florida paper recounted the conversation Lacy allegedly had with Verizon:

'Well, there's nothing else I can do for you,' the representative said before laughing and hanging up the phone.

'This is wrong,' a frustrated Lacy said.

According to The Consumerist, the family needed the matter resolved before they could settle Young's estate.

Finally, after Lacy contacted the Consumer's Edge column of the St. Petersburg Times, Verizon took action. 'Bob Elek, a spokesman for Verizon, said the representative did not handle the case properly and has since been reprimanded and given coaching,' the St. Petersburg Times writes.

Verizon will refund Lacy for the months she was wrongfully charged.

Ivan Penn of the St. Petersburg Times advises consumers to keep a safe deposit box of PINs and account passwords. 'Reality is,' Penn writes, 'that anything could happen, whether death or serious injury. Your family may need to access that information, so it should be a part of estate planning.'

Recently, however,The Guardian presented a chilling scenario: What if the bank refuses access to the box until after the will is probated, but the necessary information is in the box?

The Guardian goes on to explain:

[M]any countries's laws make it difficult or impossible for a court to order you to turn over your keys; once the passphrase is known by a third party, its security from legal attack is greatly undermined, as the law generally protects your knowledge of someone else's keys to a lesser extent than it protects your own.

Our myriad digital identities--from online bank accounts to Facebook profiles--has given rise to a host of new startups that aim to help individuals manage their 'digital afterlife.' Companies, such as Legacy Locker, AssetLock, Deathswitch, and Slightly Morbid, are being set up to act as e-undertakers, helping individuals to plan for their digital assets, much as they would draw up a will.