I’m kind of stepping away from the legal advice today; and spending just a bit of time on a soapbox. Given that this is the holiday season, and people at least pay lip service to “goodwill towards men” at this time of year, I simply want to point out that when someone dies, any feuds they had should die with them. I understand that sometimes people do horrible things to other people; and I am not one who subscribes wholeheartedly to not speaking ill of the dead; if someone was a real SOB during their life, I’m not necessarily afraid of saying that. Nonetheless, I’ve seen survivors carry on feuds after the death of a loved one. Most commonly, not telling family members that someone died; the rationale is usually that the surviving family members were mean to the person during their lifetime, that they had a huge fight, that the person who died couldn’t stand them and that the survivor wants to carry out the wishes of the person who died by not telling family members that someone died.
First, I can guarantee you that if you don’t inform the surviving family members of the death, and they find out later, they will remember this, they will be furious and rightly so. They are not going to think that Gee, maybe I was mean to so and so, and that’s why his wife didn’t let me know he died, they’re going to think, that brother of mine was so rotten, and his wife is too, that she didn’t tell me my own brother died.
Second, you may very well be hurting innocent parties. Maybe your husband was justifiably mad at his brother during his lifetime, but if your brother has children, frankly, those children were not involved in the feud. Not telling anyone in that branch of the family is really punishing those that had nothing to do with the fight. It is simply right that they should know that their uncle or whoever died. If you absolutely can’t bring yourself to call the person who was directly involved in the feud, call someone who isn’t involved; a niece, a nephew, maybe a spouse; even a divorced spouse; you don’t have to be all kissy friendly, just polite; “Listen, I’m your uncle Harry’s wife; uncle Harry was brother to your dad; I’m just calling to let you know that Harry died last week, you might want to tell your dad” or something like that. Even if the niece or nephew was not close, they should know that a relative has passed away.
Lastly, I do understand, sometimes people do horrible things to family members; and not necessarily everyone deserves to have their deeds forgiven and forgotten; nonetheless, a lot of times, people say things that they don’t mean, say things that they later regret, or when they’re mad, sometimes people have a bad day, or a bad year, and frequently, these feuds are about something that was said, not something that was done. And sometimes words get blown out of proportion; it’s one thing if a family member molested someone else, or used violence against them, or stole from them. It’s another thing entirely if someone said something mean. I’m not saying that words can’t hurt someone but a little understanding can go a long way. You don’t have to best buddies with all of your family members; you don’t have to like them, but to be able to maintain a polite, if distant relationship with people that you really don’t like, or even dislike, is one of the distinguishing features of being a grown up. If you have a family member that has hurt you, at least consider reaching out to them at this time of year and politely communicating with them. If they reject you, fine, that’s their problem; at least you will have acted like an adult and have a clear conscience, at least you tried.