How to cancel cell phone service and accounts
Cell phones are a big part of our lives, and closing this account is an important step in the estate settlement process. To help you manage this process, Atticus has the following instructions and tips on how to close a cellular phone account.
If the deceased individual is still receiving a lot of calls and messages on their device, then don’t be hasty with closing their cellular account. However, once communications slow down, you’ll definitely want to halt that monthly fee from being charged, especially if it’s automatically coming out of an account you intend to close.
Considerations around the device
Think about the device too. Is that paid off? If not, like all debts or liabilities, it’s the responsibility of the estate to pay any remaining balances. Because smartphones are used for more than making phone calls, be certain to check the device for any stored data that family members may want or need, such as photos, emails, audio files, etc. Assessing whether the device is connected to a cloud account can be a helpful first start.
Considerations around the phone number
Because phone numbers are limited in supply, some area numbers are well-sought after or difficult to obtain. This is particularly true for large city metro’s such as New York, Washington D.C., or San Francisco. In other places, cities like Los Angeles or Boston can be particularly divided by community or neighborhood, in which case particular area codes can have higher sentimental appeal from a localization standpoint.
In the event your loved one passed away with a desirable phone number, it can be worth having discussions with family members to consider whether an entitled family member would like the phone number, or perhaps whether there’s even an opportunity to sell a well-sought after phone number through a private market before cancelling the contract with the service provider.
For more information or guidance on determining the value of your loved one’s area code, take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Valuing Area Codes.
Documents to prepare before contacting cell phone provider
In most cases you’ll be required to present certain documents to authorize your involvement in the process of closing the account of a loved one. For that reason, there’s a number of items we recommend preparing before contacting any of the cell phone service providers.
Also keep in mind that many of these companies will actually require you to bring this documentation into an actual brick-and-mortar store. We know— not ideal and we are continually working to modernize this process, but it helps to know this is a best-practice policy for preventing malicious or fraudulent requests related to one’s account services.
The following list of end of life documents are important for this process, because in our experience, cancelling a cell phone contract can be one of the more frustrating accounts to terminate.
- The name and phone number of the deceased individual
- Their date of death
- Their Social Security number
- The account holder/creator's name (if the deceased is not the account owner)
- A certified copy of the death certificate
- Powers of Attorney, Letters Testamentary, or Letters of Administration
Atticus Pro Tip: Because these documents are legally issued, it can often take some time to receive them. A helpful suggestion while waiting to receive these documents is to contact the service provider, explain the situational factors of a death in the family and request to suspend the line. Each company has their own policies, but many will allow a temporary billing suspension, such as up to 90 days, to help accommodate for situations like these.
Support process for each cell phone provider
The process for closing cell phone service accounts after someone dies varies from provider to provider. Below is a comprehensive guide outlining the process involved for each of the major cell service providers.
AT&T won’t charge you early contract termination fees in the case of a deceased account holder. If there’s a balance on the account then the estate is responsible for clearing the amount owed. Once AT&T has been notified, it’s impossible to keep the account open (Oklahoma customers are the exception). If you want to keep the number in the family, you’ll have to fill out a Transfer of Billing Responsibility form.
Online: AT&T Customer Support (Find the chatbot when you click on “Contact Us”)
Detailed instructions on how to close your loved one’s AT&T account
Cricket wireless won’t charge you early contract termination fees, but they won’t refund anything they’ve already charged either. Once Cricket stops receiving payments, the service is automatically disrupted. If you want to shut it off immediately, you’ll need a four digit account pin. If you don’t have that, you can request a one time pin reset to the device itself. If you’re unable to do that, then you can always workaround by canceling the autopay.
Online: Cricket Customer Support
Detailed instructions on how to close your loved one’s Cricket Wireless account
Metro-PCS is owned and operated by T-Mobile. A google search will reveal a customer support page that takes you to T-Mobile. Therefore, please see “T-Mobile” below for instructions on how to close a Metro-PCS account when someone dies.
Online: Metro-PCS Customer Support
Detailed instructions on how to close your loved one’s Metro-PCS account
Sprint doesn’t charge early contract termination fees, and is actually very straightforward in it’s process. Aside from the basics, such as the account holder’s name, number and date of death, agents will also need the last four digits of that person’s social security number, and a copy of a death certificate. Sprint will also accept an obituary, funeral card, probate letter or a letter from an attorney or a court, in place of a death certificate.
Online: Sprint Customer Support
Detailed instructions on how to close your loved one’s Sprint account
T-Mobile and Sprint have combined! That means that everything previously mentioned about Sprint has the same process as T-Mobile. T-Mobile’s verbiage is a little looser around their requirements, as they only require a social security number “if available,” for example.
Online: T-Mobile Customer Support
Detailed instructions on how to close your loved one’s T-Mobile account
US-Cellular claims to be a bit easier in their process than other cellular providers. They recommend calling, and providing them with a death certificate, an obituary or a letter from an attorney or a court.
Online: US Cellular Customer Support
Detailed instructions on how to close your loved one’s US-Cellular account
Verizon is quite adamant about people calling them to handle this situation — so much so that they don’t even provide an online resource for this issue. This doesn’t surprise us, as we’ve heard stories that Verizon isn’t the most sympathetic company when dealing with this matter. Verizon claims you’ll need “basic information” on a deceased account holder. It also seems that the likelihood of you having to go to a store is also increased.
Online: N/A - No online customer support provided!
Detailed instructions on how to close your loved one’s Verizon account