If my mother passed away in her apartment but wasn’t found until a week later, did her landlord have the right to disgard her things?

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If my mother passed away in her apartment but wasn’t found until a week later, did her landlord have the right to disgard her things?

She had just moved into the apartment therefore there wasn’t a lot of stuff. Because her body was decomposed and there was a bad smell the leasing office threw out all the items and kept her purse. They wouldn’t release the purse to me because they said my mother put her friend down on the lease as the beneficiary. This friend had a stroke and is not able to comprehend what is going on to help me out in this situation. What are my rights as the daughter? I’m sure her purse had her birth certificate and other items I need to make sure her affairs are taken care of. The leasing office said I need a power of attorney. Did they have a right to discard the items?

Asked on March 27, 2013 under Estate Planning, South Carolina

Answers:

Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The leasing office probably had the right to discard your mother's belongings.  They probably do not, however, have the right to determine who receives the contents of her purse.  I have never heard of a lease including a "beneficiary."  Even if the lease purports to list a beneficiary, it is not effective to pass assets at death -- only a will can do that. 

It is likely that you, as the daughter, have the right receive your mother's things.  Consult an estate attorney in your area to help you work with the leasing office.

The leasing office is completely wrong about the power of attorney.  A power of attorney expires upon death.  Therefore, a power of attorney would be useless now even if you had one.

Please consult an estate attorney to work this out.


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