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.
0 user(s) are reading this topic
0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users
Kelly Clarkson has shown off the first photos of her son, Remington Alexander Blackstock.
Birth is an unpredictable, mysterious process that intrigues us all, and there is a lot of misinformation out there.
A US mother has been shot by her toddler while driving on a highway in Wisconsin.
The seven-minute-work out is old news. Research shows the effectiveness of going hell-for-leather for just one minute.
Pregnant woman in country Australia will help Adelaide researchers figure out why cases of type 1 diabetes have doubled over the past two decades.
It's the perfect solution to combat those toddler meltdowns when they no longer want to be in a pram but can't walk long distances.
A pit bull mix that fatally bit a 3-day-old infant last week has been euthanised, authorities said.
While meeting with a lactation consultant can make an enormous difference to a new mother, it's not a service that is available through the public health system.
Members of a popular forum are fiercely debating whether it is acceptable to dislike a friend's child.
A pregnant woman who unexpectedly gave birth on a flight has named her new baby after the airline, Jetstar.
Children living in foster care can feel like their future is less than clear. But that uncertainty disappears the day they are adopted by their "forever family"
When the cramps started to kick in, Klara Dollan just assumed a painful period was starting.
Kerryn has a unusual present planned for daughter Imi's 13th birthday celebrations - she hopes to be able to be able to give the soon-to-be the teenager her first ever photo of her dad.
Our houses are cleaner than ever before. But how clean is too clean? Could a sterile home be putting your family's health at risk?
Here's a puzzle that grows with them; the Puzzle Grow Pack by Millions of Monkeys.
If you grew up in the 90s you might want to look to the genre of Britpop music for baby name inspiration.
When you catch a bug that causes acute infectious gastroenteritis (gastro), your stomach and intestinal tract become inflamed, causing diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and pain. The last thing you probably feel like doing is eating.
Would I have survived if I hadn't crossed that street?
Caitlin is a firm believer in the importance of immunisation to protect children from harmful and deadly diseases.
There is no make-up or special outfits and hairdos, but the five-year-old boy who took this picture captured the essence of motherhood as well as any professional photographer.
Studies have shown that infants in the first months of life try to avoid dealing with social wrongdoers - for example, sharing less with them and helping them less - and they expect others to, too.
Top 5 Articles
Bethani Webb was excited to find out she was pregnant, but the first time mum did not realise she was carrying four babies not one.
A Sydney cafe is offering breastfeeding mums free cups of tea in a bid to show support for the right of women to nurse their babies wherever they choose.
Jamie Oliver, who considered a vasectomy, is to be a father again. A fellow dad reflects on his own decision 11 years ago
To everyone's surprise, Kristen Miller "kept doing better each day", keeping her second baby safe.
Before my son was born I was given a lovely baby book full of blank pages waiting to be filled with weights and heights and first words.
There is no doubt seeing their child smile for the first time is an unforgettable moment for parents everywhere.
When Alison Johnson put her 18-month-old Caleb down for a nap, she had no reason to believe her son was in any danger.
All my panic and tears aside, my biggest question looking back is about the kind of security measures used in the maternity ward.
Everyone who visits a mum in hospital in the days following childbirth wants to get a photo with the new baby.
Finally, there's a way to keep warm while breastfeeding through winter.
What to do with this information? My advice would be to try not to think about it during the throes of passion.
From niplash to tight boobs, biting to milk supply issues, Pinky McKay looks at common breastfeeding issues and how to solve them.
Six months on we're all still alive, and the more we get to know each other the easier the days become.
Kirsty Carrington thought nothing of giving her newborn son a kiss, little did she know it would leave the baby fighting for life.
After children, 'me time' looks a little different.
A stroller can make or break travelling with a baby or toddler. Here are 15 great single travel stroller options.
It always pays to remind yourself of how terrific toddlers can be - they're little like this for such a short time
This is the comp for you! We have $800 worth of Myer gift cards and boxes of Australian Bananas to be won. Entry is simple: just post a pic of your little one enjoying a banana in the comments of the FB post to enter.