TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Who Gets to See the E-mail of the Deceased?

Re: Who Gets to See the E-mail of the Deceased?

Robert Bonomi (
Tue, 10 May 2005 00:37:12 -0000

In article <>,
<> wrote:

> Robert Bonomi responded to Lisa Hancock:

>>> The e-mail should be treated no differently than any other personal
>>> belongings and they revert to the next of kin or recipients specified
>>> in a will.

>> "Not exactly." ALL the property and "personal belongings" of the
>> deceased belong to the ESTATE of the deceased. Until properly
>> distributed to the inheritors -- either in accordance with a
>> distribution schedule specified in a will, or according to statutory
>> specifications.

> My point was that it be handled like any other personal effects, not
> the fine points of estate law. I was disagreeing with those web
> enthusiasts as described in the original post who didn't want the
> email released at all.

> Keep in mind that many estates are settled without probate and court
> orders. Getting that stuff is expensive and not worth it if the
> estate is small, such as often in the case of a young person.

(A) That stuff is _not_ expensive. court costs are generally in the very
low 3 figures, _at_most_.

(B) "informal" settlement works *ONLY*IF* nobody objects. As soon as
any 'involved party' raises an objection, or demands the formal
procedures, the informal techniques are no longer a viable option.
Those who insist on employing them in the face of opposition, are
_personally_ legally liable for not using the formal procedures.

If the objection comes from a beneficiary of the estate, or a
creditor thereof, those who take property from the estate "without
benefit of formal procedure" can find themselves subject to
criminal action (for 'theft'), as well as civil suit to recover
the value of the stolen property.

>> All that had to happen was for the _executor_ of the estate to contact
>> the Internet company, providing the *COURT*AUTHORIZATION* that (a)
>> certifies that the person *is*, in fact, deceased, and (b) gives them,
>> _as_executor_, access to any/all property belonging to the deceased.
>> The family did _not_ have such documentation, when the original
>> request was presented.

> I would presume the family presented a death certificate which is
> normally issued upon death.

Which doesn't prove "boo" as regards who is the authorized agent of
the estate, and the only party legally entitled to access to the
property of the decedent.

> As I mentioned above, going to court for probate and documentation is
> expensive. For a person without any significant estate this could be
> a waste of money.

>> Eureka! That's right. But it was *not* the _executor_ that made the
>> request to the Internet company. Hence the "difficulties".

> If there is no will, the next of kin (as defined by law) becomes
> by default the executor. I would suspect military documentation
> provided that information.

FALSE TO FACT. Statute prescribes who (defining 'kin' relationships)
is the _inheritor_ of the proceeds of the estate of an intestate (that
means 'died without leaving a will') decedent.

Statute does _not_ define a 'default' executor.

>> As the parents did *NOT* present a claim that they were acting 'on
>> behalf of' THE ESTATE OF THE DECEASED, *their* request -- made in
>> their own persona -- was properly denied.

> Do we know that for sure? I would agree that if the parents
> just merely showed up with no documentation that their request
> should be denied. However, I presume there is official military
> documentation stating next of kin and so forth and they could've
> presented that.

Any such presentation of documentation to anyone outside of that
military organization would be greeted with (effectively) laughter.

Such a designation means *absolutely*nothing* to anyone other than the
party _to_whom_ that designation was made.

When a member of the military designates, _to_that_military_, whom
they wish that organization to consider to be their 'next of kin',
that designation applies *ONLY* to actions involving that military
organization. As in, "who should be notified in an emergency", "who
should be consulted for certain kinds of decisions, if/when you are
unable to make them", etc.

Such a designation has *NOTHING* to do with who obtains _ownership_ of
any physical property that belongs (belonged) to the decedent. The
_only_ document that specifies that is a "will" -- and which may, or
may *not*, take precedence over statutory specifications. (In some
states, a wife, for example, may "elect against the will", and get the
statutory share of the estate, regardless of express provisions in the

The only means for formally transferring ownership of property that
belonged to the decedent is 'probate'. Something as simple as
ownership of a car requires probate -- to get the owner's name on the
title straightened out.

Note: it is _entirely_ within the realm of reason for an individual to
designate several *different* persons as 'next of kin' in different
contexts. It happens _fairly_frequently_ in the real world.

Post Followup Article Use your browser's quoting feature to quote article into reply
Go to Next message: Robert Bonomi: "Re: Phone Line on cat 5 10-Base-T Ethernet?"
Go to Previous message: Steve Sobol: "Re: SprintPCS Lousy Web Interface"
TELECOM Digest: Home Page