Jump to content
Finding something marked "private" after someone's death
31 replies to this topic
Posted 21 January 2013 - 06:37 AM
The mother of a very good friend died 4 weeks ago in a motor vehicle accident, so her death was sudden, unexpected and a huge shock.
The task of organising the funeral and going through her mum's belongings fell to my friend as her siblings (2 sisters) were estranged from their mother, and are also estranged from my friend. My friend hasn't spoken to her sisters for 10 years. Their father has also passed.
I've been helping my friend sort out her mum's belongings and we came across a cardboard cylinder marked "private" in her mum's handwriting. It contains sheets of paper (the cylinder is open at both ends so you can see the contents inside.) The cylinder actually contained my friend's high school certificate, and her name label is still on the front, so we thought the contents must have been her certificate, but as soon as she peeked inside she realised they were something else; just not sure what!
Would you pull the papers out and see what they are? This may sound like a trivial question, but my friend is torn as to what to do, and she's unable/unwilling to ask her sister's opinion, and I really don't know if she should get the papers out or not. The cylinder is marked private, but they could be important; we have no idea.
What would you do?
Posted 21 January 2013 - 06:42 AM
Private could mean anything including legal documents. The person is deceased so I would open it to check what it was.
Posted 21 January 2013 - 06:44 AM
Take it out and read it.
That is what I would do.
I read my mother's diaries after she died, you can't get more private than that.
Yes they could be important - so you need to check them.
You have been cleaning out her home so you have dealt with all kinds of other 'private' things.. just because that one was actually marked 'private' it really is no different.
Posted 21 January 2013 - 06:44 AM
tbh i would probably have a look. It could be marked private but the contents may not be what she originally had in it when she marked it "Private".
Posted 21 January 2013 - 06:53 AM
Yes I would. Your friend is doing this because everyone else in the family has bailed, so she has no choice. It could be anything - but whatever it is she does need to go through it and make a choice on whether it is to be kept or thrown out or given away.
Did the mum have a will? If so, then maybe the executor should be opening it.
Posted 21 January 2013 - 06:59 AM
I know you are asking from a moral perspective, however from a legal perspective I don't think privacy continues after someone's death?
I would open it and read it. From a practical perspective, unless your friend's mother had a lawyer, there is no-one else to do it. It could be important, as PPs suggested, such as a will. It could end up being of significant sentimental value to your friend. There's no point in ignoring it or pretending it's not there. You found it for a reason.
Re reading your Mum's diaries countrymel. All I can say is you're a brave woman. I wouldn't want to read my mother's. Not that she keeps any, but I'm sure that there are things I rather leave unknown lol. Funny, I keep a journal and I'm not sure how I would feel if DS were to read them. But I'd have no problem if my grandchildren or later generations read them. Can't explain why though.
Posted 21 January 2013 - 07:11 AM
yes I would look at it.
It may be something important and she is already charged with finalising her mother's affairs - I don't see this as any different. Just one more thing to be put to rest.
Posted 21 January 2013 - 07:16 AM
Yes I would look.
We have things in Private envelopes.... DHs employment contract comes in one, as does Annual pay reviews.
I suspect we will come across similar things for MIL in the future, but that may be around where she has cash stashed around the house and details of safety deposit box.
Posted 21 January 2013 - 07:18 AM
Yes, I would open it. There are plenty of things that can be marked "private", that aren't of earthshattering importance, but are more on the mundane side.
And I agree with the PP that privacy stops after death.
Posted 21 January 2013 - 07:23 AM
I would look with the intention of forgetting all about it if i had to. Like if its about the sister
Posted 21 January 2013 - 08:42 AM
Yes, I'd look.
Posted 21 January 2013 - 08:42 AM
No question for me - would absolutely look at it.
I have to be honest and say it's because I'm nosey.
But I can see other "legitimate" benefits to looking at it e.g. it may be important paperwork, letters your friend might get a benefit from reading e.t.c.
If your friend is nervous as to what she is going to find, perhaps you could look at the documents first e.g. make sure it's not a birth certificate that says who her *Real* dad is or something like that.
Posted 21 January 2013 - 08:50 AM
I would look. It could be important. If it was 'top secret' thing she didn't want anyone finding out about ever then I'm guessing it would have been better hidden or perhaps worthy of destruction lol.
I'm guessing it's important... that's why she kept it. Open it.
Make sure you tell us all what it was
Posted 21 January 2013 - 08:56 AM
I wouldn't have thought twice about it and it would be open by now.
Posted 21 January 2013 - 09:00 AM
Ohhh for sure, it might be something you need to know and if not I'm sure it's probably just some legal or medical document.
Posted 21 January 2013 - 09:21 AM
It may be some legal documents your friend needs to see, and I would be reading them in her case. However, your friend probably also should be prepared for anything. After my GM died, we were going through her things and found police reports from when her first husband beat her and she had to take out a restraining order. This dated back to the early 1950s, and we had no idea that this was why she divorced her first husband. (She was my Dad's stepmother, and never spoke of her first husband.)
Posted 21 January 2013 - 09:33 AM
I went through my very good friend belongings and we came across this very issue, luckily we looked at it because it contained legal documents and sworn statements and a whole treasure trove of documents that helped my friend's life partner to gain his full assets after his death. Just as my friend predicted his sick and twisted family came after the assets and tried to contest the will. (This was before same sex inheritance laws were passed)
Posted 21 January 2013 - 09:39 AM
Look at it, yes. But be mindful that whatever those contents are; she won't be able to "un-see" them and if she has questions about them that she would've liked to ask, she won't be able to ask them anymore. So she needs to be prepared for that. She also needs to be prepared to see something she won't necessarily like... what if she's adopted? what if it reveals something she didn't know about her mum? she will not be able to ask any questions at all! ever. she needs to be okay with that.
1 user(s) are reading this topic
0 members, 1 guests, 0 anonymous users
The Essential Baby & Toddler Show is back this April! Save $8 off the door price for a limited time only!
Sometimes the greatest baby name ideas come from the most unexpected places, as these EB members show.
While we often think of pregnancy as a 40 week affair, experts agree that 37 weeks is actually “full term". So is there an argument for inducing all births at 37 weeks?
Controlled-crying techniques may help some babies sleep through the night, but for many exhausted new parents, it's just a recipe for more tears all round.
As people become more aware of these benefits, I hope more parents will practice this method, so we can cut down on nappies and improve baby bonding.
Aussie actress Emily Symons has announced she is pregnant with her first baby.
A little girl will grow up without her father after the fit and healthy 34-year-old passed away while doing something he had practised his whole life.
You could be doing yourself a disservice by encouraging your toddler to have an afternoon nap, according to new research.
We've compiled a guide to some of the most popular presents for newborns and new mums, and for christenings and naming days.
Actress Jaime King is pregnant with her second child, giving 16-month-old James a sibling.
The Abbott government should extend funding to nannies, and direct childcare payments to low and middle income families, a landmark study on childcare has found.
As many as one in two newborn babies suffer from skin irritations in their first few weeks. So what are the most common rashes and irritations to look out for?
Wall decals are the answer to creating a beautiful nursery or children's space without lifting a paint brush, a spirit level or even a hammer.
Three-year-old Cain Trainor headed off home after his first day at a new preschool without telling anyone.
In spite of being in an almost constant state of motion while looking after the kids and trying to keep things together at home, it can seem as though parents have managed to get nothing on the to-do list done by the end of the day.
The middle name is no longer an afterthought, and parents' inspiration comes from many places.
A new IVF scheme offers couples the chance to fall pregnant and give birth - or get their money back. But there's more to it than you might think.
A baby born still inside the amniotic sac gave US doctors a rare glimpse at life inside the womb.
Three years ago Jason Hughes viciously attacked his ex-partner. Now she has to write to him three times a year.
A West Australian woman will fight allegations that she scammed expectant mums by selling them fake ultrasound pictures of babies.
Got bored kids? Quickly find the best activities for kids wherever you are in Australia with the Essential Kids app.
Top 5 Articles
A Sydney mother who suffered brain damage when she was hit by a car while pushing her newborn baby in a pram has reached a confidential out-of-court settlement with the driver's insurance company.
A culturally sensitive midwifery service has gained the trust and respect of Aboriginal women.
Most mums-to-be plan to take things easy and perhaps have a little break from work as the birth of their baby draws near. Not Kate McCartney.
Announcing that you're expecting can be a time to express your creativity, sense of humour and imagination. Check out how other parents and parents-to-be have broken the news to friends and family.
Last week an un-retouched photo of model Cindy Crawford surfaced, showing the 48-year-old mother-of -two posing in underwear.
Thought your toddler could not love pancakes any more than they already do? How about if the breakfast treat came in the shape of every two-year-old's favourite cartoon character?
I thought I was never going to be able to have a successful pregnancy. I decided that I wasn't going to form an emotional attachment with this baby.
February 18 marks the start of one of the most prolific annual baby competitions in Australia: the Bonds Baby Search. And this year is going to be more special than ever.
This is not something that people like to talk about, but Facebook has announced that it will grant users more control over what happens to their pages after they die.
Mother of four Marie Holmes was financially struggling after quitting her jobs at Walmart and McDonald's in order to care for her children.
A first-time mother whose daughter died hours after her frightening birth insists she was never told of the risks of being obese and pregnant.
She has labelled parents who do not vaccinate their children "misinformed imbeciles" - and for that, she makes no apologies.
Are you one of those that know the whole IKEA catalogue by heart? Love their stuff but want to personalise it? Here's some inspiration to help you realise the potential of IKEA furniture and fittings.
I never thought I’d say this, but for a brief moment last week, Kim Kardashian and I had something in common: both our kids had public tantrums.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common female hormonal condition, affecting roughly one in 12 Australian women.
If doing it on your back is out, what's the best position for labour and birth?
With Valentine's Day coming up, Nat Gilbert could be forgiven for thinking her husband might be planning a surprise for her.
We usually only hear the success stories: tales of the two-year-old who’s talking, running and completely toilet trained. But other stories need to be told too.
Sarah Kiss has a word of advice for proud mums and dads who are keen to enter their babies in this year's Bonds Baby Search Competition - just have fun.
If your family needs to go to sleep school, go with them. You are part of that family and you are part of the solution.
A French court may have ruled out Nutella as a baby name, but that doesn't have to stop you from taking inspiration from the supermarket (or bottle shop). See what parents in the US have chosen for their delicious little ones.
Check out this range of products designed to help make your breastfeeding journey more enjoyable, manageable and convenient.
Win a KitchenAid Mixer
To celebrate, and to thank our amazing fans, we?re giving away a KitchenAid Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer.