DEAR AMY: My elderly uncle died two years ago. There were some delays in processing his estate, but my sister and I are finally cleaning out the last of his belongings. He never married or had children (that we knew of), so we are the sole heirs. He also left no will that we could find. Both his sisters preceded him in death. But now, two years after his death, we finally found, hidden in a briefcase in storage, a will made out to a woman from South America. The will was dated 1998, but never signed. We then found a photo of him with this woman, and another photo of the woman with a little girl. Conveniently, there is a calendar in the background of the photo, and it was taken in 1998, so this little girl is now in her early 20s. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you there's a strong family resemblance. There's no evidence in bank records that he'd been sending money to this woman and the girl. But he traveled a lot for business so it's plausible that he was in South America during this time. I strongly suspect that this girl is our first cousin. It would probably not be too difficult to find her, but should I? Part of me wonders if she would welcome this news, or if it's not news to her, if she would welcome contact from American cousins 20 years older than she. But maybe she has been wondering about her father her whole life. What am I obligated to do here? What's the ethical thing to do?
DEAR COUSINS: The ethical thing to do is to try to find this cousin. And yes, you are obligated to do the ethical thing.
You should take the will to a lawyer to determine if its valid.
Assuming that the will is NOT valid, if there are items included in this document which you and your sister can provide (material possessions or money), it would be kind of you to attempt to fulfill your uncle's wishes. However, you don't actually know the particulars of your uncle's relationship with this woman over time — he might not have signed the will for a very deliberate reason.
Bequest aside, yes — I would urge you to contact this woman and her daughter to let them know of your uncle's passing. Send them a copy of the photo you found and ask if they would like any more photos of him. Open the door to more contact, and they may walk through.
DEAR AMY: I have two granddaughters who have outgrown the expensive toys I bought for them when they were young and I was financially comfortable. Fast-forward 12 years, and the girls are teens. My daughter is divorced and strapped for cash. I am retired and on a reduced income. Although she never mentioned it to me, I saw that my daughter has placed their toys for sale on a local website. It irks me to see a $100 toy chest (which I bought for them) being sold now for $25 (along with other items). She doesn't offer me any of the proceeds, even though she knows I can use the money. Am I wrong to feel perturbed about this?
DEAR SAD: Your daughter should have mentioned to you that she intended to sell these things, but overall it seems that she is making a responsible choice. Unless these are family heirlooms (in which case, you might want them back), she and the girls have the right to sell them.
No, you are not owed money from the proceeds. Your daughter is doing what she can to reduce her possessions and bring in some cash. Even though your feelings are hurt, I think it's best to get over it.
DEAR AMY: Regarding the letter from "Limpin' Louie," who was upset when strangers commented on his limp: Many people are unaware how common it is for disabled people to get unsolicited and unhelpful advice from strangers.
In the Chronic Illness community, we joke about this with a phrase we're regularly treated to by well-meaning people: "Have you tried yoga?" In some circles, this kind of advice giving is considered a microaggression.
Trying To Help
DEAR TRYING: Even though I challenged "Limpin' Louie" on some of his assumptions, I don't actually consider this behavior a microaggression, but an aggression. I have seen people push "miracle cures" on cancer survivors; it is incredibly obnoxious and disrespectful.