E-Mail Bogeyman

25 Feb

Dear LetterBalm: Recently, my sister’s closest friend died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). She empowered my sister as her executor to take care of all matters, including end-of-life decisions, funeral arrangements and selling her home. While my sister was clearing out her friend’s house, she was also closing out her e-mail and Facebook accounts. My sister came upon a disturbing group of e-mails, each one more angry and threatening toward my sister’s friend. They seem to be on the level and were written over the six-month period before her death. The sender wrote one just this week. Apparently, they concern a sizable debt the e-mail writer believes my sister’s friend owes because of some illegal activity. The sender gave his contact information. Her friend never mentioned anything about this – my sister is stunned and scared. She needs to know her next steps. What does she say to the e-mail sender?

–Poison-Pen Keyboard      

Yikes. Talk about family secrets. Whatever happened to unearthing crushed prom corsages, old Coleco video game consoles, and high school yearbooks with bad-hair photos? Ms. L.B. advocates a no-nonsense approach: Tell your sister to make an appointment with an attorney right away. Print out all the e-mails first; then forward them to the lawyer. Put the matter into the attorney’s hands. Depending on what the lawyer advises, as her friend’s executor, your sister may have to prepare a letter to the individual, something along these lines:

Dear Mr. Jones,

I am writing to you concerning Mary Smith. Ms. Smith passed away on [date] of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. You may have known of her fatal illness, which she had battled for the past four years.

As executor of Ms. Smith’s estate, I came across the series of e-mails you wrote to her starting on [date]. I am unaware of the subject of these e-mails; Ms. Smith did not discuss them with me. Accordingly, I have referred your e-mails to an attorney (information below) who will be in contact with you shortly. At this time, the matter is in his hands.

Sincerely yours,

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