Dear AT&T, My Dad is Still Dead

Post mortem bureaucracy

SG Buckley
5 min readJul 7, 2022


Photo by Miryam León on Unsplash

Dear AT&T,

Like I mentioned a while back, my father has passed. He died just before Christmas 2019.

Three weeks later, I gave you a call. I explained that my dad set up an AT&T account for my apartment in Florida because I lived abroad. He paid the bills with checks from my account. I asked if I could automate payments and put the account in my name.

I thought this would be easy. I wasn’t moving house, and the bank account used was my own.

You put me on hold; you passed me around; eventually someone came on the line who said she could help. She asked for the pin number. I didn’t know it. She said to guess. I tried my dad’s birthday. I tried my birthday. I tried all three of his children’s birthdays put together.

She said to go to an AT&T store, and to make sure it’s a corporate store and bring his death certificate. I said I lived in London, where I’d never seen an AT&T store, corporate or otherwise. She said if I couldn’t go to a store, I should try accessing the account online.

I did that, but the thing is my dad never wrote anything down. Not pin numbers or passwords, much less the name of his first grade teacher or childhood pets.

I was so sure his favorite restaurant was Testa’s. It’s there we celebrated his 90th birthday with family and friends. What a night! Then again, it could be Green’s where we’d been going for burgers and chocolate milkshakes since I was five. Or maybe it was Toojay’s where they had those wonderful black and white cookies my dad loved.

It turns out it was none of those restaurants and after three tries I got blocked from the account.

I called back. This time, I got a nice lady, whose name I wish I remembered. She seemed genuinely sorry my dad had died. I told her I should have switched the account into my name years ago, but the problem was my Dad was in his 90s. He enjoyed managing my apartment expenses and our housekeeping chats. He liked helping me out. I didn’t have the heart to ask him to stop. It implied I didn’t think he’d be around forever.

Your nice employee managed to circumvent the system so I could get into the account and automate the…



SG Buckley

Writer, editor, parent. Former staffer at Quartz, WSJ and Inc. magazine.