Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Family Photos Are at Risk After Brother-in-Law's Death

DEAR ABBY: My husband's sister passed away in 2013. Her husband, "Roger," joined her in heaven three months ago.

There are pictures in their house of my husband's family (parents, grandparents) that he would like to have and that are of no interest to Roger's family since they never knew those relatives. Not knowing the etiquette for asking for items after a person's passing, I asked several people who had lost close family members when a respectful time to ask would be. They all said that two weeks should be fine.

I contacted Roger's granddaughter asking about the pictures and told her we are not interested in anything but the pictures. The granddaughter got angry and said that "everybody is already wanting all Roger's things." Then she blocked me, and now I have no way to contact anyone. I'm worried that the pictures will be discarded.

I feel terrible that I offended the granddaughter. It wasn't intentional. I don't even have a way to apologize. Was I wrong? What is usually the etiquette in such matters? -- MISSING FAMILY PHOTOS

DEAR MISSING: You did nothing wrong. You didn't jump the gun because others have also been inquiring about the disposition of property. Emotions can run high when there is a death in the family, and frankly, the granddaughter may have overreacted.

You stated that you "contacted" her. Was it online? I ask because sensitive questions like this are best dealt with directly -- in person or by phone. You may be able to contact surviving relatives by reaching out to the mortuary that handled the funeral, or to the church Roger and his wife may have belonged to. It couldn't hurt to inquire again in a month or two, if that's possible. I agree it would be a shame if the family photos were tossed.

Read more in: Death | Family & Parenting | Etiquette & Ethics