Life Advice



Mysterious photo invites ethical question

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

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?

-- Concerned Cousins


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