we raised a lot of money to help a coworker — but the person holding the money died

This is a really tough one, so I’m throwing it out to readers to help with. A reader writes:

I’m writing to you seeking help about a sensitive circumstance that has taken place at my work. My coworkers know I am writing to you and there is agreement about my submission to you.

At the beginning of February, the wife of one of my coworkers gave birth to a premature baby, 16 weeks before her due date. A collection was taken up for him and his wife because the baby was in intensive care and it was a stressful and draining situation for them. A manager deposited the money in the bank and was to write a check for him and his wife (a confidential spreadsheet was kept of the donations and everyone signed off on the amount that the check was to be for).

The next day the manager who was supposed to write the check was killed in a car crash. We hate to even be thinking of this, but we have no way to access the donations and only her family can access her bank account. It was a significant sum of money (over $1,500). The crash made the news and her family has started a fundraiser to pay her hospital bill and funeral expenses as they cannot cover it on their own.

Our question is how we can tactfully ask them to give us the money so we can donate it to our coworker who had the premature baby as intended? We don’t work for a large company with the funds for another check, it’s a small business. Many people here dug deep to give a donation and no one can really afford to do it again. We don’t want to upset or hurt her family but that money wasn’t hers. None of us want to offend her family because they are struggling too.

Oh no, this is terrible. I’m so sorry for everyone involved.

I hate to say it, but I don’t know if there’s an easy way to get that money back. Her family may not even be able to access her bank account yet.

And then of course, there’s the sensitivity around approaching a grieving family and asking for the money back — that’s a tough thing to do, especially when they’re in the middle of raising funds themselves.

I’m stumped on this one. What do others think?

{ 622 comments… read them below or add one }

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It is! (This is a reference to something I posted on Twitter a few days ago about being stumped for the first time ever about how to summarize a letter in a headline.)

      Reply
    2. Jill

      Does anyone have authority to talk to the bank?
      Maybe the bank people will be able to suggest something, they must have had this kind of situation before.

      Terrible for all concerned.

      Reply
      1. Daria Grace

        If laws in their country are the same as mine, the bank won’t release anything without family consent. Even then extensive documents may be required so I doubt they’ll be able to be much help

        Reply
      2. Zombii

        I’ve worked for a bank (I’m in the States). Anyone can talk to someone at the bank but the bank won’t give out information about someone’s account to a third party without speaking to the account holder. As general information, the bank would probably recommend speaking to the executor or anyone else who has access to the account (spouse, usually), and if that doesn’t work out, civil action.

        It isn’t ideal. None of this is ideal. This is a terrible situation.

        Reply
        1. Lex

          This is why money that is collected for a donation to a family shouldn’t be put into a personal account. There should have been a donation account set up…most banks offer this option for people putting together benefits/memorial funds/donations for a cause or person. I set them up all the time when I worked in banking.

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    3. Blue eagle

      Perhaps approaching the manager’s immediate family would not be as much of a shock as some of the commenters assume. People often mention what is going on at work to their families as part of discussion over dinner, while hanging out, etc. So it is likely that the manager’s immediate family already knows of the situation of the premie’s family and that a collection was being taken up for that purpose.

      Probably best to approach the family as tactfully and as timely as possible to let them know of this awkward situation (i.e. money meant for a co-worker being in their personal checking account).

      Reply
      1. Karen D

        Right, I would give them the chance to just do the right thing, and I’d do it as quickly as possible.

        Imagine how they would feel if they assumed this money was part of the estate, made plans to use it (or even worse, spent it) and then found out it wasn’t the deceased’s property? If they are good people — and there’s no reason to assume they are not — they would feel an obligation to return money and that could be a hardship if it’s already been spent.They deserve to at least know so they can make an informed decision, even if it’s to say “nope, we’re not giving that back.”

        Reply
  1. Thomas E

    In the UK there is someone called the executor who is responsible for paying out debts from an estate. They’re generally an official person e.g. lawyer
    . Isn’t there a similar role in the US?

    Reply
      1. Gwen Soul

        There is still someone, even if it is the court who has to sign off on the transfer of assets (the government wants it cut!)

        Reply
        1. Pippa

          If there is no executor, the court will appoint an administrator. I honestly have no idea what the time frame involved might be though.

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          1. JB (not in Houston)

            That’s assuming that the the estate is going through probate, though. Depending on the deceased person’s assets, the family may not decide to do that.

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            1. IdentityTheftIsNotAJokeJim

              It goes through probate either way, it’s just a matter of whether testate or intestate succession applies. If there’s no will, it goes intestate. Each state has their own laws about who gets what in intestate succession.

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              1. JeanLouiseFinch

                If everyone agrees, then you can skip probate in most states; or if everything goes into what is called a “pour-over trust.” The bank would be the right entity to contact to give the correct name of an executor if there is an estate opened. However, as rough as it is to do this, I think the right approach is to quickly contact the family about the money and let them make their plans accordingly. Then, after the money is returned, anyone who wants to can donate a small sum to the family of the deceased manager.

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              2. JessaB

                Not necessarily. If all the accounts are in more than one name, and the house is in more than one name, probate is not always needed. We needed it for my father, but my mother, no all they needed was the death certificate because all the accounts were in both their names with right of survivorship. The only reason we needed it for my father was he forgot to change the beneficiary on one of the life insurances and we had to prove my mother was dead and move her off the insurance and prove his only other inheritor was me. If there’s no contested money and there’s no contested property you don’t necessarily have to go through probate. The government at least in the US will get their cut anyway when the taxes for that year are filed.

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      2. Aveline

        In the absence of a will, an administrator will be appointed.

        The only way this circumvents the courts is if there is no land and very little in assets (usually $10-20 K).

        So they can wait and see if one is appointed.

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        1. Jessica

          I’m bitterly amused by the idea that 10k is the bottom of the “very little” assets range, or even that that range has a bottom. Don’t know where you’re from, but I’m pretty sure here in the U.S. a significant percentage of the population has net worth <10k.

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          1. Lawyer Here

            Actually, the cut off varies by state. In Alaska, anything under $50,000 is considered a “small estate” and not worth probate.

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          2. Zombii

            I assumed the range was because this varies by state, with $10-20k being the most common cut-offs for what’s no longer “very little,” not because under $10k is “less than very little and poor people should feel bad for being poor.”

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            1. John

              $100k in California. And without a will, an administrator needs to be appointed by the court tin order to pay final bills, close accounts etc. I just did this a few years ago, so it’s pretty fresh.

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              1. Aveline

                Sorry I wasn’t around last night to clarify.

                Sometimes we post thing that aren’t clear or are clear, but misunderstood and then we don’t get back in time to clarify or correct.

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          3. Pommette

            In my jurisdiction, any estate under $50,000 is considered small and is subject to fewer legal restrictions. The rationale (as it was explained to me, anyways) is that the cost of following the regulations that are in place for larger estates (lawyer and administrative fees, etc.) would eat up a significant proportion of the smaller estates.

            I had the pleasure of learning this after tagging along with family members who closing a relative’s bank accounts down after her death. The accountant explained that we were in the clear, as far as regulations go. He then went on to tell us the story of a family who had gone to court over a $5,000 inheritance (“fighting over peanuts”). I was broke and had had to borrow money to travel into town for the funeral. Fortunately or not, I was too grief-stricken and polite to say anything at the time. I guess that people who are wealthy themselves and are used to dealing with other wealthy people can become really desensitized to the fact that for many people, $10,000 is a lot of money. “Bitterly amused” nicely sums up my feelings about that experience.

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            1. Faith

              I think the point was that if you fight in court over 5K, you will soon have nothing left after the attorneys, court fees, etc.

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    1. Gwen Soul

      Oh this is a good idea, there is usually an executor for an estate, but it likely means a delay. I wonder if there is a way to register the debt officially so you don’t have to bother the family right now.

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      1. Amber T

        That’s the key thing here I think. Legally there are ways to get the money (it seems like there’s enough of a paper trail to prove what the deposit was). But how do you approach a grieving family for something like this?

        Assuming she did have a will, is there a way to discover the law firm or lawyer handling the estate? (I’d hesitate going straight to the executor because there’s a good chance it’s a loved one who’s also grieving.)

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        1. Karen D

          Like pulling off a Bandaid, basically. Along the lines of “This is a horrible situation and I know you are reeling from this loss. But there’s something you need to know, and there’s just no easy way to say this: Your loved one was holding donations for another co-worker; they are in this location and here’s the documentation. We thought you needed to know.”

          When my dad died, fairly suddenly, none of us realized he had promised to co-sign for my niece to refinance her car. She didn’t say anything for months. I wish she had; I would gladly have co-signed for her instead*, and did so as soon as she brought it up.

          *very responsible niece.

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          1. Lissa

            Yup, I agree. I like that wording a lot. I think that this situation is not one where people should just let the money go, and while it is upsetting, I think reasonable people will not believe that you should just “let the family have it” or something like that.

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          2. Rocky

            Excellent approach, Karen D. That way the family can decide if, how and when they want to return the donation. At this point the co-workers could also approach the parents of the prem baby and explain the situation. Having had infants in the hospital myself, I know people’s kind thoughts really did count.
            If there’s no reply from the bereaved family, at least the co-workers know they did everything they could.

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      2. Aveline

        This isn’t a “debt”. It’s not the estate’s money.

        The best argument here is that this is NOT part of the deceased estate, but rather, property they were holding in trust.

        Think of it this way: if I leave $500 in your house that I’m going to pick up tomorrow and then you die, that $500 isn’t part of your estate. It’s still my property.

        That’s the best argument here.

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    2. LawBee

      There is, but the executor can often be a family member, which would be awkward. And this isn’t a debt, so there wouldn’t be a lien on the $1500. There’s really not an “official” way to get that money that I can think of – and definitely not one that wouldn’t cause additional pain to the victim’s family.

      Eesh. This is tough.

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      1. paul

        That was my first thought. I’m *so* not a lawyer but I’ve been involved in handling the estates of some family members and I’m at a loss for any legal way to protect this money–particularly if the person’s estate is in any debt.

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      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yeah, this is where I land in the legalities. This isn’t a formal debt/claim, although (in terms of legal process) OP could certainly file a claim on the estate once it enters probate.

        But I wouldn’t advise it. First, it would take months (if not years) to process the claim, and it’s subordinate to literally all other claims. I think a faster and more humane approach would be one that doesn’t involve the legal system.

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        1. fposte

          And I think it’s not uncommon for relatives to pay some estate stuff out of their own pockets; it’s going the other way that’s a problem. While my father’s estate didn’t go through probate, it was still easier for me just to pay a few things out of my own pocket while we were getting stuff settled.

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      3. Aveline

        Agreed. In my state, this isn’t a debt and they would not get it back via the probate court. The judge would expressly tell the executor NOT to pay it. I’d advise my client-executor not to pay it.

        For those stating that there might not be a probate if there is no will: The presence or absence of a will is not controlling. Even without a will, a probate has to be opened unless the deceased had no real estate and was worth less than $15,000. That’s very few people in the USA.

        If the family doesn’t open the probate, a creditor can. (Except in this case, they aren’t really creditors).

        There’s no way to show this was anything other than gifts to the person holding the money. If there was no paper trail, no written agreement, it’s going to be tough to show that this wasn’t the deceased’s funds.

        However, if I represented OP, I’d argue that it’s not the deceased funds, but funds she was holding “in trust”. So it’s not a debt her estate owes. The $$$ isn’t hers and part of her estate. The issue is going to be proving that. I would likely take more in attorney’s fees that it is worth.

        This is precisely why you never put funds from an organization or something like this in someone’s private bank account.

        If the family doesn’t want to give the money back, they are SOL unless they do the math and the attorney’s fees are less than the money they get back.

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        1. Aveline

          Correction – $15,000 in my state and several near me. That’s not a universal amount. Varies by state.

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      4. Aveline

        While it’s not a debt, it’s also not the estate’s property. This is property of the fundraiser that the deceased was holding in trust.

        I’d send a letter saying that “$1500 of our funds were being held by the deceased, and we’d like to have it back now.

        It’s not a debt, but it’s not estate funds either.

        Reply
    3. Misquoted

      Yes, generally, but even when things are well-documented and go smoothly, these things take time. Sometimes the executor is a lawyer or something like that (meaning less close to the situation emotionally), but often that person is a spouse or son/daughter, which adds the aforementioned sensitivity.

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    4. Kyrielle

      Yes, there is. It may be a hired lawyer, but it may also often just be a family member, which can complicate this. (If you’re in Oregon, the term is “personal representative” – I *think* every other state uses “executor”.)

      In any case, finding out who the executor is will probably still require approaching the family. The executor should proactively approach anyone they know there are debts to – but this is very unlikely to be on their radar.

      I would suggest approaching the family gently in a few days – the estate won’t settle that quickly, and the money won’t vanish – and asking gently who the executor for the estate is. Then take it to that person. If they’re a family member or friend, just explain the situation as kindly and gently as you can. If you’re lucky, it will be a lawyer, in which case you don’t have to worry about their grief the way you would with family/friends.

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        1. LawBee

          A little bit. I don’t do probate law, but we do have a lot of estate clients, and each state is a little different.

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        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          No, there’s a legal difference. The personal representative appears on behalf of the heirs (1) if there’s no will, which requires the court to appoint an executor, or (2) if the heirs contest the executor’s fitness to serve in that role. The personal rep is usual an interim administrator for the estate until it enters the probate process.

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          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Sorry, I. Want to add that each state IS different. Probate is a state law thing. But I have a feeling “personal rep” has the same meaning in SC as other states.

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          2. Kyrielle

            Note: in Oregon, the “personal representative” IS what people normally think of as an “executor” in other places.

            I was the personal representative for my parents’ wills. (And promptly hired a lawyer to actually do the court portions of that.)

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      1. Susan

        This might be stupid, but just a thought: would the funeral home know who is the executor and be able to give that information to a representative of the company? If that’s a possibility, you wouldn’t have to approach the family to ask.

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        1. Em

          That’s what I was going to suggest. The times I’ve had to deal with a funeral director, he was both knowledgeable and tactful.

          Also, I don’t think I would be traumatized if someone came to me after a family member died and said there was this situation. I mean, it would be sad because I would be dealing with the affairs deceased loved one, but otherwise, it’s just a business transaction that needs to be taken care of.

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          1. Amber T

            Depends on how the request is delivered and how skeptical the executor is. If I’m grieving over a loved one and said loved one’s coworkers told me loved one owed them money for some random thing, I’d be super skeptical and doubtful. It’s not like a credit card bill or a utilities bill that’s pretty obvious. The reason why all the money was collected is… unusual isn’t a good word, but I can’t think of a better one. (Note – I think OP and her coworkers are super generous and what they did was a wonderful thing, it’s just not an occurrence that happens that often.) Going through a non-loved one (like the funeral director, that’s a great idea) is I think the most tactful way of doing things for now.

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            1. Anna

              I think, considering they have documentation, it wouldn’t be that far-fetched. And it’s possible whoever the executor is knows something about how this was happening. The difficulty is less about the what of the request (who on earth would come up with a story that weird to get $1500 out of a colleague’s estate) and more about the approach.

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      2. Sami

        The company may also need to talk to executor about the employee’s final paycheck, so that may be a gentle opening for the other situation.

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      3. ZenJen

        Yes, definitely tactfully approach them. If you also have emails documenting the collection and that the coworker was collecting, going to deposit the money, AND write the check, then you have legal proof, right?

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      4. Suzy Q

        Don’t count on the money not disappearing quickly. One of her relatives may be a signatory on her account. Even a designated beneficiary on the account could go to the bank with a copy of the death certificate and access the funds.

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        1. Gadfly

          It took more than that to settle things with my father’s accounts. It will be very dependent on if there is a designated beneficiary or if it is a joint account and all sorts of details.

          It is very strange (or so it seemed while dealing with things) how it can be extremely simple or extremely complex, just with a few minor differences.

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        2. OlympiasEpiriot

          Depends on the bank AND the bank officer. I was the named executor on my father’s will, but until the will had progressed through Surrogates Court and I had the documentation that the Court had accepted me as executor, one of his banks wouldn’t tell me if the accounts had designated beneficiaries. He had several accounts there and, as it transpired after I finally had the letters of administration, on all there not only was a designated beneficiary, but…it was me! I was already annoyed that they wouldn’t let me know if they had beneficiaries (because people could have already had the funds) but then I gave them hell for incompetence because they Had My Name And Address and could have cross-referenced it. *headdesk*

          Dealing w/ all that taught me that some people already received helpful, some are not, some know the rules, some don’t, and any potential request is worth asking because the worst that will happen is they say No.

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          1. OlympiasEpiriot

            Dunno what is wrong w/ my autocorrect. That second paragraph’s 1st sentence should read “some people are helpful”.

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    5. fposte

      There’s also the possibility that other entities have claims on the estate. Even if there’s no probate (the checking account might be set up as Payable On Death, for instance) the IRS et al. still get to be first in line.

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      1. Aveline

        Yes, but this isn’t estate funds. It’s not estate property.

        It gets returned to it’s rightful owner BEFORE any debts are paid.

        It’s no different than if I loan you a truck and you die. It doesn’t make the truck part of your estate.

        The issue here will be proof.

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        1. fposte

          And timely proof to boot. If the funds have been disbursed because the claim on the estate wasn’t known, it might be a challenge to claw it back. I don’t see much luck with most creditors, for instance, without significant lawyerly involvement.

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          1. Aveline

            Agreed. This is why they have to be intrusive and let the family know now.

            Also, if this was in a payable on death account or a joint account, they are facing a major uphill battle.

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    6. kittymommy

      When my uncle and grandmother died I went through probate on both of them (no wills) and was just named the personal representative for the estates. It was pretty short but still took a few weeks.

      This is a.hard one. If they had joint accounts then the bank account is likely still open, but if they’re raising money for the funeral the donation money is likely either spent already or earmarked. Dues the coworker with the baby know that the funds were being raised?

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      1. AMG

        I would suggest someone like this, who is close to the family / in the family but who can still provide a line of communication with tact and sensitivity. There’s always someone available for this, in my experience.

        It may be that the family says they can’t give the money back, and at that point you have to accept it as a loss or submit it in whatever court would be handing the transfer of assets. Obviously, if they refute, the whole thing is contentious and hurtful. You could try explaining the situation and see what happens from there.

        What about a go fund me for the baby and just letting the $1500 go toward the deceased’s funeral expenses? Maybe starting over is the best way to go. With all of you posting on Facebook and whatnot, you may be able to recover it all and then some.

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        1. Zombii

          Valid points but I disagree completely with your last paragraph.

          It isn’t the coworkers’ place to set up a fundraising page—maybe the family already has one or would be opposed to the attention—and those things take a lot more time and effort than a small collection around the office. Settling an estate is difficult but there’s no reason to let $1500 that was raised for someone else’s medical expenses go towards a different financial need just to avoid some awkwardness with the surviving family members. (This depends on the amount and purpose of the money, obviously.. if the manager had been holding $30 everyone had kicked in for Pizza Friday, I’d say drop it.)

          From the family’s perspective, I would want this information as soon as possible, just so any decisions could be made with that context. If it’s already gone, it’s gone, but they deserve to know.

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        2. snuck

          I too like the idea of supporting the co worker’s family AND the premmie baby family.

          Could you either discuss splitting the funds between the two families, or do some other form of fundraising (or PR support) for the co workers family… or the premmie family.

          I know the original intent was the premmie family, but it sounds like your community can’t dig this deep this soon anytime soon, so maybe this is a solution.

          I’d do initial contact via phone – and do it soon. A polite but cautious call, and make swift and appropriate condolences too – get that card around, signed, and maybe hand deliver it, with a verbal conversation about the “fundraising funds that Jane was holding, here’s a record of them… we’d like to offer you 1/3 of them, as a gesture of appreciation, and see the other 2/3s going towards the mounting medical costs of the premmie family. Jane was such a supporter of this cause, and it’s good to be able to support you right now from some of her own efforts” or whatever makes sense to say.

          Reply
    7. Death Lawyer

      Trusts and estates attorney here. The laws vary state by state, but yes, there should be someone appointed as executor/administrator/personal representative (the title depends heavily on state law) to deal with the estate administration and, depending on the state laws, the distributions may have to be approved a court. I practice in the Northeast and, luckily, that’s not often the case up here.

      Other commenters are correct – it could take weeks for someone to gain access to the account depending on how it was titled. I might approach this with the family members very gently, rather than filing a claim against the estate, and explain the situation. You could request that the executor treat these funds as not an asset of the deceased a/k/a funds that never belonged to her in the first place and therefore are not part of the estate. In case there are other debts/claims, the executor may wish to have someone from the office sign an affidavit explaining the situation so if other creditors attempt to sue for the funds, there is some backup.

      Worst case scenario, if the family dismisses you, you may have the option of petitioning the local probate court to explain the situation and request guidance. The court likely has the authority to deal with a situation like this and can craft a legally binding resolution. Again, I wouldn’t treat this as a claim, rather as funds that never belonged to the decedent.

      Finally (and thank you for bearing with the longest comment ever), you know I have to make a disclaimer that I am not providing legal advice and I haven’t created an attorney/client relationship with the letter writer.

      Good luck!

      Reply
      1. Aveline

        +1000

        Also trust, estate, and probate attorney.

        The best approach is that this is not estate property. So you circumvent and creditor’s claims.

        I was going to post this, but you beat me to it.

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      2. Aveline

        One big caveat:

        If this was in a bank account with a POD beneficiary or a joint account with a survivor, then it likely isn’t part of the estate. OP would have to contact the beneficiary or co-owner and ask for the funds back.

        In this situation, I think they need to spend $150 and have an attorney write a letter on their behalf to the family, executor, etc.

        Reply
        1. Death Lawyer

          I think you could make the same argument even if the account was POD/TOD/Joint/held in a trust. Then it was never in the decedent’s hands to begin with and therefore would not be part of whatever passed to the beneficiary/joint owner at death, or would not be what was held in the trust at the time of death. In some states, the probate court can exercise jurisdiction over certain non-probate assets if needed.

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    8. detached anon

      Late to this thread…
      When I read this post, I was thinking that Office could ask the banker for advice.
      The bank might have specifics about the various deposits, such as checks with a “baby fun” memo. Even tho the bank can not release information to Office, the bank could send it to the executor.
      Then I saw Thomas E’s comment asking about executors & I thought “Duh. Not banker, ask the executor.”
      If Office has documentation (in this case access to the spreadsheet?) then this should be presented to the executor because the funds didn’t actually belong to the deceased.
      Problem is, if the executor is a family member then this can be a bit tricky & the only suggestion I have is to decide whether or not Office wants to ask for the funds. Just be very clear as to the identity of your spokesman so that multiple people aren’t trying to recover the funds.
      One more thing, & I really really hate that I’m even suggesting this… Might it help to specify what the funds are for?
      If I was told this decision was mine alone, I think I’d talk with the executor & then go from there.
      Probably the family is okay with Office asking for the funds. Even if they feel awful now, they’d feel worse if, in the future, they learnt about the collection & hasnt known about the situation.
      I’m sorry for your loss.

      Reply
  2. MuseumChick

    The possible thing I could think to do is wait a few months to allow the family to grieve and then have someone at the company who was close to the manager reach out to the family.

    What a terrible situation.

    Reply
    1. Kyrielle

      *wince* By that time, the money may have been disbursed to the heirs or even used – and they may feel blindsided and like the whole horrible mess has come up again. (That is *exactly* how I would have felt had a debt/money-owed circumstance of my father’s come up again months later. Heck, that’s how I felt when I realized I had to deal with one more account of his that we’d missed…and that one owed *him* money, although not much.)

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      1. fposte

        Yes, at this point it’s two months after the tragedy, which I think is a good time to raise it if you’re going to.

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        1. Artemesia

          If they are begging money to pay bills they will have spent this money long before 2 months. I think this had to be done within the week; at this point there is no way to proceed. If the dead co-worker had left a sizable estate it would be one thing, but if they are trying to crowd fund his final expenses not so much. The money had to be sought and attached immediately — it will have long since been spent.

          I think the only way to deal is to raise it again for the co-worker with the baby although because there is a record, one could see if there is an attorney or executor who could deal with the situation. Wow.

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          1. fposte

            Yeah, I don’t disagree; I was mostly agreeing with Kyrielle that waiting longer isn’t likely to be helpful.

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            1. AD

              It’s also going to be a loooooong time coming to the employee for whose medical costs for the premature baby this was supposed to help. It’s a tough situation for everyone, but if coworkers contributed money of their own to this end, they shouldn’t have to wait months and months to see that money go to where it was intended.

              Reply
      2. AMG

        I can see saying, ‘Here’s what’s going on, but we don’t have to deal with it right now. If you can help us recover the money in the coming months, that would be helpful’, but even then I think it will be lost in the shuffle.

        Reply
        1. Working Mom

          I have an idea! Considering the tragedy that occurred, and the fact that funds are being raised for his family now – what if a representative from the company spoke to a relative (maybe not his spouse, but if they could track down another close relative) and say “We had all collected $1500 to donate to Bob and Sally in support of their premature newborn. Manager (name) had collected those funds for us and was going to write them a check. Now that are all so saddened to lose Manager, we all agree that we want you to keep those funds.”

          The group of employees probably all would have taken a collection of some kind to support Manager’s family anyway – so I would say consider the already collected $1500 their contribution to his family, and then start over a new collection for the family with the newborn. This way the family of Manager knows that you all care for his family and have chosen proactively to give that $1500 that was earmarked for the other family to his family. And if the relative says, “oh I’ll just give it back to you” I would encourage the response to be, “No, we have all agreed that we wanted to support your family anyway, and this is our decision, please accept the gift.”

          Reply
          1. fposte

            OP says that people don’t have money for the newborn, though, and it’s kind of hard on the donors that they gave money that was a stretch for them only for it not to go to their chosen target.

            Reply
          2. Browser

            You missed this part of the letter:

            **We don’t work for a large company with the funds for another check, it’s a small business. Many people here dug deep to give a donation and no one can really afford to do it again. **

            Reply
          3. Madeleine Matilda

            I like Working Mom’s idea, but also saw in the OP’s letter that the fellow employees couldn’t afford to give a second time. Perhaps OP and her co-workers could hold a community fundraiser for the family with the preemie and do as Working Mom suggested with the money already raised.

            Reply
            1. Elizabeth West

              Hey, this might be a good idea. People will cough up tons for a baby. And it would help the manager’s family out a little bit (and also means the company doesn’t have to awkwardly ask the family to deal with this at such a rough time).

              Reply
          4. MegaMoose, Esq

            In addition to the zero sum issue fposte and Browser mentioned, while I understand wanting to be compassionate and find a positive solution here, if I’d donated money to help a preemie, I’d feel at least a little indignant if someone unilaterally decided the money was going to go to another cause instead (no matter how deserving). If the LW goes this route, I think they’d need to get sign-off from the people who donated first.

            Reply
            1. Chicklet

              And even then, I could imagine people feeling pressured to sign off even though they didn’t want to. People might feel like a jerk saying no even if they’d really rather the money went to the family of the premie.

              Reply
            2. Temperance

              I agree with this. I’ve had this scenario happen to me in the past, on more than one occasion, and have felt annoyed and sort of blindsided, especially if I gave more than I normally would. This is a very sad situation, but I don’t donate to Go Fund Mes for funeral expenses, but would happily contribute to the medical fund for a sick preemie.

              Reply
      3. designbot

        Also, the primary time of need for the family it was actually raised for would (hopefully!) be past as well. I’m sure it would still be appreciated, but they may have had additional hardships along the way that could have been avoided if they’d gotten that money.

        Reply
        1. Lies, damn lies and...

          Not likely. With a micro premie, you’re looking at a hospital stay of months, parents not able to work, medical bills to deal with, future time off for doctor visits, needing to have a nanny instead of regular daycare because of germs and susceptibility to illness. $1500 is a tiny amount of money all things considered and 2 months past birth I assume this baby is still in the nicu and parents are spending as much time there as possible.

          Reply
          1. OhBehave

            Not to mention the possibility of the hospital being far from home. They could also have other children who need caring for, so add those expenses as well.

            Reply
        2. Catscubed

          My daughter was born 15 weeks early weighing 1 pound. She is 8 months old now and we have a lot of extra monthly expenses relating to her therapy and follow up appointments. My husband has had to take unpaid time off at work. $1500 would be unbelievably helpful and amazing right now. Trust me, I’m sure this family could use it even a year from now.

          Reply
      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Totally agreed. I think this is something that should be done before the funeral, if OP decides to approach the family. This is so so awful, though. Even the most sensitive approach has a high risk of alienating the survivors.

        Reply
        1. Sue

          It is possible that the financial difficulties of the deceased manager’s family are temporary. It takes time to liquidate assets and there could even be a large claim if the accident was not her fault.
          We don’t know enough here to evaluate their needs but the needs of the preemie’s family are clear.

          Reply
          1. Gadfly

            It could be a matter of waiting on insurance companies for her own life insurance. Even at the least contentious it is hard to get things sorted. Add any family drama, no will, and/or no clear next of kin…

            Reply
        2. Zombii

          I missed this and I think so did most people commenting:

          At the beginning of February, the wife of one of my coworkers gave birth to a premature baby […] A collection was taken up for him and his wife […] A manager deposited the money in the bank […] The next day the manager who was supposed to write the check was killed in a car crash.

          I’m not really sure on how this timeline played out but it seems to be well past the funeral by now, at least by a few weeks. :(

          Reply
    2. Aveline

      It’s not the estate’s funds, but if they use up all the money in the bank account, then OP has no way of getting the money back.

      They need to send a letter now to all the next-of-kin to put them on notice of this. Once they find out if there is an executor or administrator, they need to let them know.

      In writing.

      Reply
    3. Someone

      But the family is already dealing with a lot of official and bureaucratic stuff anyway, right?
      So I actually think that right now is the best time. My grandfather died this year, and my mother and grandmother were so busy with everything that needed to be organized that I’m sure they didn’t really get to grieve until some time later. Someone approaching them about a matter like this would have been just one of many problems that needed to be solved.

      Reply
  3. Just Thinking

    What if it were approached by someone his wife knew well in the company?

    And perhaps the donation, could be made in memory of her husband.

    I can’t imagine that his wife wouldn’t want to do the right thing, as long as she knows about it. For all you know, she has no idea he was holding this money to begin with.

    Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Thanks for noting this; no further discussion of this point necessary (which I say to explain the five further comments about it that I removed and to ward off additional ones).

        Reply
        1. Nervous Accountant

          Thank you!

          This is such a tough tough situation all around. I feel like this is one solution (gender/pronouns aside). Unfortunately there’s no right way to approach this (a lot of WRONG ways but no right way!)….I hope everything works out well for everyone involved.

          Reply
    1. otherworldling

      This. I know everybody is different and some people might actually take offense. But I’m executor for my parents and if someone came to me about money they owed, I would absolutely want to do the right thing and give that back. Especially if it wasn’t just some small personal debt (like “they owe me for that $30 lunch” …then I might be irked), but was something for a good cause. And if that someone also offered something – splitting some of the money or another gift of some kind, I would be touched by that.

      Also, everybody needs time to grieve, but some people deal with that differently. There probably are some people who would see this as incredibly insensitive. But unfortunately there always are a lot of financial and logistic matters to figure out, and for some people, having a lot of that to go through can even be a needed distraction. If anybody knows the family, it’s best to figure out who might be most receptive to being approached.

      Reply
      1. AndersonDarling

        Very true, it may seem insensitive to approach the family, but they may be happy to know that their loved one was organizing a collection for someone in need. And there is a spreadsheet with documentation of the donations, so there is a paper trail of the money owed.
        You never know how the family will react unless you reach out. They may find solace in completing the act of kindness.

        Reply
        1. my two cents

          When my father had passed VERY suddenly, and without life insurance, our family knew that he had several regular bar patrons who owed him various amounts of money (he owned 3 bars at the time). We, as a family, decided to mentally write that stuff off, as we couldn’t ever locate his ledger he used to keep.

          But, even if someone had come to us that same week with this type of request from coworkers that had raised money for another employee AND had any sort of reasonable documentation – I know that we would have been willing/able to help figure it out together. We had rando’s trying to scam my mother out of his additional old cars and tenant agreements and stuff – even had some jag leave an anonymous note in the CARD COLLECTION BOX AT HIS WAKE claiming that ‘all of the bartenders were stealing from him’, which was particularly gross.

          But this? If someone gently asked for a $1500 collection for the women’s shelter that employees had raised, we would have just checked the bank deposit record to see it had dropped (might be w/a night deposit), just verified that the collection list exists, and worked on cutting a check back.

          Taking the collection for the coworker in need is such a sweet gesture, I can’t imagine the family reacting badly to the request…even if they simply ask for some time to sort it out on their end. If it was an unsettled invoice, that could certainly wait. But this is more of a ‘never a good time to leave’ situation. Cancelling cell phone plans and other crap like that for a deceased family member totally sucks, but were I in such a position again I would be sort of (relatively) happy to work on tying up loose ends related to something good and charitable.

          Reply
          1. Lucy

            Another vote as someone whose parent died unexpectedly while still at work – I’d have been happy to handle this as part of dealing with my dad’s estate because I was in hardcore head-down admin mode.

            And I’d have been mortified if I knew the coworkers were unwilling to bring something like this up with me. I mean, I’d have understood the skittishness around the subject, but I also think society sometimes expects a very specific set of feelings and rituals around grief, but neither my grief nor my relationship with my dad were typical. I’d hated to think people might have avoided bringing up something important like this because they’d made a bunch of assumptions about how I was thinking and feeling.

            Reply
            1. my two cents

              Yes! I kept thinking “I’d be a bit embarrassed that this was even hanging out there” but ’embarrassed’ wasn’t quite the right word. A bit of a no-brainer for me, like, OF COURSE I will forward the collected money! heh

              Reply
              1. Gadfly

                Although the waiting months would have made things more awkward if it had been like this for my my father because there were a LOT of sudden, unexpected expenses that emptied his bank account as soon as we had access to it (and had already emptied mine and my siblings and Grandmother’s.) Depending on when they asked, they might have been told they’d have to wait because the money was spent and I couldn’t personally cover it and that I wish they had come to me immediately. And I’d feel horrible about that, and resent them a little for that, and the bottom line would be that I’d want them to have the money, but it would have to wait on things like insurance companies to pay out so we had access to it or to discuss with my siblings withdrawing it from the 401k rollover-plan and deal with the taxes on top of everything else, etc, etc.

                Better to be done quickly–the longer this goes on the worse it gets

                Reply
          2. calonkat

            Agreed. I think this has the bank deposit record and spreadsheet as documentation, and is indicative of the sort of caring manager the deceased was.

            Reply
      2. Admin Assistant

        For me it would also depend on how someone approached me. I would definitely ask for proof of the collection situation if I was a family member of the woman killed — if some coworker of my loved one called me and said that my loved one was holding $1,500 for them, can you please send it over, I would definitely be skeptical. Let’s hope that these coworkers use all tact possible, and that the family sees the opportunity to honor their loved one’s life by giving this money to save and care for a newborn.

        Reply
      3. Sprinkled with Snark

        I am so glad you mentioned this, otherworldly, as I was wondering how to bring this up too. My mother died when I was a working woman in my 30’s, and my husband’s mother died at about a year later in a fatal car crash, so I have a little experience with this. Both of our mothers were employed at the time.

        The worst thing you can do, OP, is to keep putting this off for months to “give the family time to grieve.” Grief is forever, and it’s always changing, and is in stages too. It’s part of the grieving process. Secondly, don’t go to some distant relative somebody knows, or cousin, or family friend and ask them to approach the departed woman’s family. Have someone who worked with the woman and knows her well from the company (or even a manager or company owner), call the woman and ask if you could drop by for a brief visit to talk about a project the woman was involved with that you know she would have liked to see finished. Just don’t drop by unannounced. Have one or two people from the company come by the house, perhaps bring flowers or a sympathy card, spend a few moments sharing positive contributions the manager made, and how well liked she was with the company. Then approach her calmly and directly about a special project she was involved with, collecting funds for this baby, and tell her about the check. Be very clear about what you need from her (a check from her estate), and how very sorry you are that you need to trouble (her/him) with this. Be sure to leave her a card or contact information that she can give to the executor of the estate, and ask that the executor call if they have any questions or need any further information. Proceed carefully and sympathetically, and again tell the family member (probably a son or daughter or husband) how sorry you are, but also mention that this project was very important to their mother since she was always the one to go out of her way to help out the employees.

        By this time, the family has been approached by so many people, especially in a fatal accident — the funeral director, the coroner, the sheriff or police detective, other family members, maybe a financial planner or attorney, the priest or minister, the insurance agent, and yes, some of them will be asking for bills to be taken care of, or obligations to be met, etc. The request for the baby’s check is just one more obligation that will need to be taken care of, and one the family needs to know about as soon as possible. They may even take the news very well, and if they are like most people that I’ve spoken too, will understand and want to take care of that as soon as possible. After all, this was not family money or income, it was money she had collected and was holding for someone else in need.

        Don’t assume that the family is so fragile and delicate at this time that you have to wait for months until you can even approach anyone. In all likelihood, they will be sad and a little weepy, but will most likely be able to garner up enough composure to hear you out. Hopefully, they can make quick arrangements and get you a check.

        Reply
        1. SamC

          I wish I could “like” your response – I agree to give some warning about what you’re visiting about, be gentle and kind but don’t worry too much that you beat around the bush. If you’re unable to visit in person, I think a phone call could be OK, too, as long as you still approach with kindness.
          Don’t put it off too long – there are so many obligations to take care of, and the ones that pop up after you think you’ve taken care of everything else are more overwhelming. Everyone handles grief differently, but the easiest parts for me were the administrative work, and the things that just needed to get done.

          Reply
          1. Gadfly

            Within the first couple weeks of my father’s death it would have just been part of settling the estate. Months later and I would have been resentful. Because it would have thrown a lot of what I did have sorted out into a new mess. And I was lucky with my family–we weren’t fighting over anything.

            Reply
        2. otherworldling

          I like the specifics of this approach a lot. Setting up a time to talk, providing contact information, etc is upfront but still allows them control over the situation if they do need time to process it or don’t have access to the money immediately. It makes them aware of the debt without being too pushy for the money.

          Reply
      4. Kay

        Agreed. I settled my mom’s estate, which was complicated and emotionally devastating. But if her work had approached me about this, I would have been delighted to do the right thing and return the funds, which are demonstrably not hers. It feels like making someone’s world a little brighter and I like to think I would have felt good being part of that. I don’t know how that would work with insolvency but I would at least have wanted to be able to include the debt and documentation in the list of obligations, even if I had to get legal advice or court permission to make good. (IANAL so I don’t know if that ever happens. It wasn’t an issue with us).

        Reply
  4. AnotherAlison

    That is a really weird, tough situation. I would say the money the manager deposited is gone. I would not put any energy into trying to get it back. Your coworkers donated to a good cause, and it will probably go to a good cause if it ends up back with her family who had to cover her final expenses.

    You may be able to discreetly explain what happened to the coworker with the baby. Could the office find other nonmonetary ways to donate that would help him? (Preparing freezer meals or something like that). Or if there are a few coworkers for whom it would not be a burden to donate to him, maybe they could scrape up some additional cash for that family (senior mgmt, owner).

    Reply
    1. Isben Takes Tea

      I’m intrigued by this suggestion…that gives the grieving family all the information, and they can decide to keep it or give it as intended.

      I would only go this route if you all agree that either way would be okay with the group. This is a really sucky situation, but it may just be one of this things.

      Reply
      1. Zombii

        It doesn’t give the grieving family any information. It tells the baby’s family that money was raised for them but it’s gone now, sorry, here’s a lasagna we hope this helps. :(

        There’s no good resolution for this situation. It’s really sad.

        Reply
    2. Stephanie

      Yeah, I can’t think of a tactful way to get the money back. I’ll add as well that sorting out all the deceased’s affairs can take a while, so the money couldn’t be returned quickly enough to help the other coworker’s family. Sorry you’re dealing with this–this is terrible for both the families involved.

      Reply
    3. Mike C.

      As someone who very recently lost my mother member in a sudden way, I think this is going way too far. Everyone is going to be different, but hearing about this sort of situation a few days after the death wouldn’t have offended me in any way – I was already knee deep in finances and it would have been something I needed to know.

      Everyone is going to be different of course and you should likely talk to someone who is a little tangential to the deceased, but these people are grieving, not irrational or crazy.

      Reply
      1. KellyK

        Yeah, I agree. I don’t think you should write it off just because they’re grieving. You want to approach it kindly and sensitively, but I don’t think you should assume it’s something they can’t handle. Now, it might well be that they have other debts that take priority and you don’t get the money.

        If I had been holding onto $1500 meant for someone else and I died suddenly, I would really hope that my husband would make sure the money ended up where it was supposed to. And while I haven’t lost close family, I tend to think that I’d want to know and be able to make it right if I were the grieving family member—it would be about honoring the wishes of the deceased, who had helped organize that effort and collected the money in good faith.

        Reply
      2. irritable vowel

        I agree. Any other organization to whom the deceased had owed a debt (car loan, mortgage, credit card) is not going to tiptoe around and figure, “oh, well, I guess we’ll never get that money back because it’s too awkward to ask about it.” And they’re probably going to be a lot less sensitive about it than your company would be, since you had a personal relationship with the person who died. Someone from your company (ideally the owner/CEO or someone high up – don’t put it on an admin or one of the manager’s staff) should absolutely get in touch with the deceased person’s spouse or whoever next of kin is and just politely explain what’s happened. You might not be able to get the money right away if they don’t yet have access to the bank account, but they should absolutely be made aware of it.

        Reply
        1. irritable vowel

          Replying to myself to add: the company has already or is going to have a logistics conversation with the family regarding paperwork, anything belonging to the company that the manager may have had at home, who to send her final paycheck to, etc. It would be great if the donated money could be addressed in this context – after all, it is just another thing that the deceased did on behalf of the company. Probably someone from HR would be the one tasked with dealing with this, so perhaps the company should add that to the list of things for HR to bring up with the family representative. When an employee of a company dies, the company *has* to involve itself in order to deal with bureaucratic matters, so this should be considered just one more of those things.

          Reply
      3. medium of ballpoint

        Agreed. And this may be putting too much of a positive spin on it, but the grieving family may appreciate being able to honor this very kind thing this woman was doing for her coworkers.

        Reply
        1. my two cents

          Commented up above as well, but when we lost my father suddenly I would have appreciated ANY kind of bright spot that cropped up to help offset having to call around cancelling cell phones, magazines, and credit cards (which totally sucks).

          Reply
          1. SamC

            OMG the credit cards – compared to that, donating money to a family also going through a traumatic event is sunshine.

            Reply
      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yeah, I agree. Honestly, OP has to determine if they want to take the risk of offending someone. But on the other hand, I think there are a lot of people who, upon hearing this, would immediately want to make good (and would want to know not to rely on this $1500). I wouldn’t react badly—we had a similar situation when my great uncle (who was like a second grandfather to me) passed. We didn’t have $ for the funeral, but we still transferred money he had been holding for a group of friends who intended to have that money donated to a specific charity because that’s what my great uncle would have wanted. When his friends told us, we weren’t horrified (and knew them well enough to know they weren’t lying).

        Reply
      5. KTZee

        Agreed. I lost my mother several years ago and executed her estate on my father’s behalf (long story), and I don’t think I would’ve had any sort of significant emotional reaction to this sort of request. I got a few administrative type requests since she had been the treasurer of a local organization. All those tasks were annoying, but no more so than the myriad other stuff I needed to do in the way of cancelling accounts and all. I would probably have responded most positively if the requestor proactively provided documentation (email chain, the spreadsheet), so I would certainly advise OP to do this.

        Now, if the money has already been spent and they simply don’t have it anymore to return, then I think that has to be the end of it, but I don’t think asking is out of line.

        Of course, everyone grieves differently and processes these types of events differently, but my two cents anyway.

        Reply
      6. Gadfly

        I wanted to know these things right away. Months later would be WAY worse because by then I’d created some order that this would destroy/damage.

        Reply
    4. DevAssist

      I like this idea!

      I was thinking they should let the money go and not try pursuing it (too painful/sensitive a situation) and see if everyone who donated would feel comfortable with the donation being left to assist the deceased’s family.

      They could do like a meal train and/or maybe a small donation or gift collection for the employee who is a new parent.

      Reply
    5. Mimi

      I would not explain it to the baby parent coworker. I could just as easily see a post from the colleague saying a donation had been taken up for them and the person has died. They have a premature baby and $1500 could really help them right now. Is there a tactful way to ask for the funds that were intended for them. Cant you picture that being a post?

      You could approach the family of your deceased manager (I am sorry for your loss) and tell them what happened. Maybe a halfsies is the best? We gathered this money for the parents to help and Jane was in charge of dispersing it but then the accident happened. We feel really awful and she was well loved blah blah blah. We were thinking it would be good to split the funds because we know you could both use it and a lot of people dug deep for this drive so just dont have the funds to donate a second time. We feel really bad approaching you about it but could you help facilitate this? If the group is okay with the split it option.

      For what its worth, if this was my mom (and so thankfully its not) I could totally see her faciliating a donation like this. And I would want them to tell me about it and the funds to go to that family with the baby as my mom had intended.

      Reply
      1. Mimi

        The blah blah blah means any comments you would like to add.

        Ive just realised it might read as dismisive and that wasnt the intention. Just poor word choice.

        Reply
      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I think this is the way to do it. And I’d consider bringing copies of the spreadsheet or emails, just in case the family is too shell-shocked to process.

        Reply
      3. Recovering Adjunct

        If the deceased co-worker was gathering the funds, it’s a good indication that she felt strongly about this collection and really wanted to help her coworker. I wonder if approaching it as praise for Jane– “I know this loss is so sudden and difficult. Jane was a wonderful coworker who really cared about those around her. In fact, one the last things she took on here at work was to collect for xxx.” And then explaining the situation would help.

        I also wonder if the letter writer could talk to those who donated about if they’re comfortable splitting the donation– $750 for the deceased coworker/$750 for the family with a new baby. The $750 from the deceased’s account could be put as a testament to Jane’s love of helping others… but, ugh, this is so tough and sad for everyone involved.

        Reply
        1. Sprinkled with Snark

          Framing the situation in a positive way for the deceased person’s family is an excellent idea. “Jane” was involved with this project and it was important to her. She, along with the rest of the office, wanted to provide something for this family, and that’s one of the reasons we all loved Jane. I really enjoyed hearing those stories about my mom when she died. In fact, a group of my mother’s co-workers came to visit us at home right after the funeral to bring casseroles, etc, after meeting me at the funeral. I think they wanted to sort of “assess” that we were open to a visit and they wanted to pay their respects. After so many years of working with her, they knew so much about my mother and about my siblings and I.

          But the “halfsies” thing is just weird. Tell the family about it right away, tell them it was Jane’s project, and the amount the office collected. They will either return all of it, or say, we didn’t know, we spent it on Jane’s funeral costs. Well, in that case, you made a donation to Jane’s family. You don’t even really know what “half” is – -suppose Jane had added another $50 or $62.50 just to make a round amount for the baby? I think it’s far more awkward to ask for “Half” of the money.

          You also don’t really know what kind of situation Jane’s family is in after her death. It’s customary to take up a donation when someone dies to cover “funeral expenses”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Jane’s family is about to be evicted either. The family COULD be in a position to do quite well once the estate, insurance, possible lawsuits (car accident) are settled. However, the preemie baby will have expenses for the rest of her life, which is why the co-workers felt compelled to dig deep. I might donate a lot for a preemie baby, but much less so for a funeral. I would assume (maybe incorrectly) the family had life, death, auto, and accident insurance).

          Reply
    6. an anon

      I agree with this comment.

      To my thinking there is no legal right to the money and to approach the family asking for it would be extremely cruel considering they unable to pay for medical and funeral expenses now.

      And think about it this way. Say that the person who died did write that check before she died, and the money was distributed to the other coworker. Then this person died. Would your office have held a second fundraiser for the deceased coworker’s family? If so, this is sort of what would already have happened (donations going to both the grieving parent coworker and the deceased coworker’s family), just out of the usual chronological order.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        There actually is a legal right to the money; it’s just but a formal debt or secured interest.

        Reply
          1. Martin Crane

            Agree with framing it with praise for the deceased for taking the lead on helping out the preemie. Being prepared with the spreadsheets is a good idea, too, and I think when the family sees the $1500 deposit that will also indicate to them that this is legit (I’m assuming most people are not frequently depositing four figure sums in their chiecking accounts outside of their paychecks.

            Reply
          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            That doesn’t mean there’s no legal right. The money was given to the decedent for caretaking, and keeping it would be conversion. So it’s not part of the estate, but it’s currently located in an account that is part of the estate (or is held in the personal property of the decedent).

            That doesn’t mean it would be easy to use a legal process to get it back—it wouldn’t, and I don’t recommend trying to use the probate (or other) process. But just because it’s not a debt does not mean that OP and their coworkers have no legal interest or right to the money.

            Reply
      2. aebhel

        There is absolutely a legal right to the money; it was held in trust by the manager, and it sounds like there’s a record of it. It doesn’t sound like most of the people there are in a position to donate this amount of money again, and it’s also not right to tell the struggling parents of a very premature baby that oops! that money actually isn’t coming to you because we feel awkward asking for it back.

        If the manager’s family reacts badly to the request, there’s probably some decisions to be made about whether or not to legally pursue it (I would lean toward ‘not’). But asking isn’t cruel.

        Reply
    7. PM Jesper Berg

      First off, it’s wrong to expect employees to be an endless fountain of donations — even employees “for whom it would not be a burden.” And it’s presumptious to think that employees have time to “prepare freezer meals” on an ongoing basis.

      The only solution here is what the estate planning attorneys above said — bring this up directly, and now. (Yesterday would have been better.) And don’t treat this donation as part of the estate, but as funds being held in trust. By all means, be diplomatic, but it does not one *any* good to tiptoe around the subject.

      Frankly — and I may be pilloried for saying this, but so be it — this whole episode illustrates why I look askance at workplace-organized donation campaigns. They’re not truly voluntary, because there’s significant social pressure to contribute. Not everyone has the budget to contribute. People may have their own medical, education, or other legitimate bills to pay. If the company wants to step in in this situation, the donation should come from the company budget.

      Reply
  5. Here we go again

    Oh my… I’m so sorry that you are trying to deal with this. So sorry for your loss as well.

    The only possible thing that I can think of is if you know what bank the manager was using and have an electronic trail of what the funds were intended for, contact the bank and see if they can notify the family of the scenario when they release the funds to the family.

    It’s probably a long shot, but might be worth a try.

    Reply
    1. Deceased estates person

      I work in a bank’s deceased estates department. We do in certain circumstances pass on correspondence from known organisations (like pension or investment companies that need to deal with outstanding issues). I’m doubtful we’d pass on stuff from an individual claiming the deceased owed them money as it risks involving us in scams and false claims

      Reply
  6. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

    What a perfectly ghastly situation. What do you even do? The family with the baby needs the money sooner than later, speaking as someone who’s had an early one in the NICU. The manager’s family also, arguably, shouldn’t be bothered with this right now, because they’re in the midst of an even worse personal tragedy.

    I’m with Alison, this is like an ethics class final exam. I’d give it some time, I guess, but what if the money gets spent in the interim? Unless everybody in the decedent’s family knows that was earmarked for the guy with the preemie, it might just get spent on hospital and funeral expenses.

    As an aside, this is why charitable giving shouldn’t be mixed with personal finances. If any of us are ever pooling money for a cause, use GoFundMe or a similar service, and make sure multiple people have access to it.

    Reply
    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

      OK, here’s a thought. Obviously, the manager’s family could use the money too. Why not let them know about the situation but tell them they’re welcome to it, and redo the funding drive for the preemie parents? That’s asking people to donate twice, and a lot of them might not be able to swing it, though.

      Reply
      1. Manders

        Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking. I have no idea what legal issues there are in this situation, but at this point, the kindest thing to do might be to let the family know that the manager had been working on raising money for a good cause and you would like them to put that money towards funeral expenses if they have access to it.

        You’d have to redo the fundraiser for the parents–and yes, this time around a GoFundMe that goes directly to the parents might be the best way to go about it. I understand why you’d want to handle this privately and just present the parents with a check at the end, but this is getting really complicated.

        Reply
            1. CAinUK

              This was going to be my suggestion!

              Give condolences to the deceased’s family, explain the situation, and then simply say “obviously we would like to now contribute to both families, so when convenient could you please release half to us for helping the family with the premature baby and then we would like you to keep the rest to help offset any funeral costs”.

              I can’t see any reasonable person taking issue with that, where I do think asking for all the money back for a different tragedy could be gauche (and indicate the premie is a larger tragedy than a death).

              Reply
      2. Bye Academia

        I would agree it would be best to consider this a donation to the grieving family and pull together a second donation for the coworker with the preemie, but it sounds like funds from the business and from the coworkers are limited:

        “We don’t work for a large company with the funds for another check, it’s a small business. Many people here dug deep to give a donation and no one can really afford to do it again.”

        Such a hard situation. I second the warning to use a third party service like GoFundMe for anyone doing this kind of thing in the future. It would also protect against the more common scenario (which Alison has answered letters about before) of the money gatherer taking some/all of the money for themselves without telling anyone.

        Reply
        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

          Not to be too utilitarian about the situation, but….as noted below, they’re not paying her salary right now. The company could match funds.

          Reply
            1. Molly

              This makes sense in theory, but in practice they may be on the hook for 2x her salary, which is a fairly standard life insurance policy. I feel incredibly insensitive saying this; just know from experience that that’s typical, though I don’t know whether it’s an insurer or the company itself that would end up paying.

              Reply
              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                It’s the insurer (that’s why it’s “life insurance”! ;) ).

                But the company may have restrictions on whether it can reallocate funds this way (many can’t), and it would be illegal to take it out if the last paycheck.

                Reply
                1. Jesmlet

                  But it wouldn’t necessarily have to be on paper as a reallocation. If this is a private company, it could just be out of pocket for the owner since they are saving on base operating costs.

                2. Natalie

                  It’s really, really unlikely that a small company would have any kind of restriction, but if they give money to one of they’re employee’s its taxable income (even if it’s a charitable donation). So they’d want to gross it up so the employee will get $1500 net

                3. aebhel

                  Taking it out of the last paycheck, no, but a small company could probably swing reallocating funds in this way.

      3. Liane

        I have no ideas for solving this. It is such an awful situation all around.

        “That’s asking people to donate twice, and a lot of them might not be able to swing it, though.”
        It looks like that is the case, as the OP does mention it’s a small business and, “Many people here dug deep to give a donation and no one can really afford to do it again.”

        Reply
        1. Mina

          I have to go with contacting the family – soon! – and asking for the money back for the baby’s family. With utmost tact and sensitivity. People donated to the first cause, and that’s where the money should go. I know it’s horribly hard, but if I were in the grieving family and found out later about this, I’d feel even worse that I took the money for something else.

          Reply
      4. Ted Mosby

        If you’re going to bother the family anyway , I think you might as well ask for the money back. I know it sounds a little bit harsh, but people dug deep into their pockets and it wasn’t for that manager. You’d be volunteering other people’s money. They might not want to give, whether they didn’t know her, thought she or her family were spending irresponsibly, whatever.

        I can see doing that to avoid bothering the family in their time of grief, or because you don’t think they’d react well, or you don’t think they’d give it back. But telling them what it was for and then telling them they can keep it seems kind of passive aggressive. At that point, you’ve also moved from letting bygones be bygones to actively volunteering someone else’s money without their permission.

        The letter makes it pretty clear they can’t take up another fund. My vote would be let it go or politely explain what happened and ask for it back. Half way seems like worst of both worlds.

        Reply
        1. KellyK

          That’s a good point. If nothing else, you really don’t have the standing to let them keep the money without conferring with the group who donated and verifying that they’re okay with it. (I think only asking for half of it is fine, as is asking for all of it back, as is letting it go, but the people who contributed should really have a say.) And I think you’re right that contacting them to tell them to keep it seems passive aggressive.

          Reply
      5. PM Jesper Berg

        “Why not let them know about the situation but tell them they’re welcome to it, and redo the funding drive for the preemie parents?”

        Because (1) that’s NOT THE CAUSE that the employees donated to, and (2) it’s double-dipping from people who, by OP’s own admission, were not really in a position to donate in the first place.

        Reply
    2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

      OK, here’s a thought. Obviously, the manager’s family could use the money too. Why not let them know about the situation but tell them they’re welcome to it, and redo the funding drive for the preemie parents? That’s asking people to donate twice, and a lot of them might not be able to swing it, though.

      Reply
    3. Bend & Snap

      NICU mom here too. That family is in an ongoing and terrifying crisis. My daughter’s hospital bill was upwards of $100K before insurance.

      I wonder if there’s someone close to the situation but removed enough to be able to feel them out on getting the money back. You may also want to ask a lawyer if your company has one, just to cover your bases.

      Doing something for the family of the deceased manager would be nice too, but I think that’s flowers, not helping to fund funeral costs.

      Reply
      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        And at some point, the baby’s the one that’s alive and needs help now. Hospital bills suck and funerals are expensive, but.

        Reply
      2. PatPat

        Who has the spreadsheet, though? If the company has the spreadsheet someone from the company should approach the next of kin with it and gently say that when the family is able the money should be returned to the group so the preemie’s family can have it.

        The company should also do what they normally do for deaths, like flowers or whatever.

        Reply
      3. Clairels

        It would be asking them to donate twice, but if this hadn’t happened and the deceased coworker hadn’t had the original money, most likely you’d be taking up a collection for her family anyway. So it’s really a wash.

        Reply
    4. Beancounter Eric

      Yep, no winners here.

      Your last paragraph is spot on – GoFundMe or similar, or see if a local bank will set up an account for donations – local news here from time-to-time mentions newsworthy situations where an account has been set up at bank X for donations in support of victim,family,survivors, etc. More complication, but helps insure funds get to where they are intended.

      Reply
    5. NCIS Crazy Town

      I know people don’t like those services because the websites take out big percentages for fees. I’ve had two friends do GoFundMe’s for medical procedures and several people I know opted to mail them checks rather than give money to the online fund.

      Reply
  7. Purest Green

    If you do approach the family, it might be helpful to tell them that you all remember boss as a kind person who wanted to help his employees (assuming these things are true), and to honor his memory you want to coordinate donating the money in his name.

    Reply
    1. Easter

      Yes, this. It’s going to be terribly awkward to approach the family about this – I don’t think there is any way around that – but it might take the sting out of it a little if you really highlight how generous and thoughtful your now-deceased coworker was being about fundraising for your other coworker with the new baby.

      Reply
    1. fposte

      Legally, at this point, it’s likely the estate’s money. The estate then determines how the money is distributed. If Jane was in debt, as sounds like it might be possible, it could end up being the debtors’ money; even if she wasn’t and the funeral costs came out of the estate, they’d eat up $1500 in a flash.

      Reply
      1. Chriama

        Is it the estate’s though? They were holding it in trust. In terms of being able to *prove* who it belongs to I understand potential confusion. But I don’t think the estate has a legal claim to it, right?

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Nope, I was wrong, and you and the others are right. The problem is that the estate reasonably *thinks* that’s the estate’s money, and may get settled before anybody has a chance to say differently.

          Reply
        2. Deceased estates person

          Well without formal trust documents or debt agreements I think you’d have a hard time legally proving it’s not the estates money

          Reply
  8. memoryisram

    Family (A): Family of your deceased Co-Worker
    Family (B): Co-worker who’s wife and baby are in the ICU

    I don’t think there is a way to get it back. My best suggestion is to let the family (A)know that you were raising money for another cause and your deceased co-worker was managing it, and thing it honors her to give it to their family for funeral expenses, etc.

    Then perhaps schedule a benefit/bake sale/etc for the family (b) with the premature baby? Yes, it’s more work, but I don’t think there is a way to say “these people need the money more than you” to a grieving family. I would imagine that even if you had told family (B) about the donation, they would understand and be grateful for anything you were doing to help.

    I think finding a way to help both might be the ticket.

    Reply
    1. BananaPants

      The money was intended for Family B. While awkward to approach Family A, the funds are not for them. People gave with the expectation if helping B, and I think the right thing to do is recover the funds if possible and carry out that plan.

      No creditor of the late manager is going to tiptoe around the issue because her family is grieving.

      Reply
      1. memoryisram

        That’s true. I suppose I meant it in a “if you can all agree” kind of way – since they seem to be working together to solve this issue.

        Personally, if I were grieving and was approached about this, I would more than understand, but I also know that not everyone is like that.

        Reply
    2. Zombii

      Isn’t it kind of a junk-punch for Family A if someone contacts them and says, in effect, “Jane collected $1500 in donations for another coworker’s premature baby’s medical bills and we waited so long to tell you that you accidentally spent it on Jane’s final expenses but we decided you could keep this money you never knew wasn’t hers”?

      Similar situation happened when my grandfather died with no will and his beloved classic truck was sold and the funds were added to his estate. One of the grandkids, 5 years later, started telling everyone the truck was supposed to have been his college fund (maybe? I mean it’s totally possible but really should have been mentioned sooner or never) and we all feel pretty guilty for having gotten a couple thousand dollars that was (maybe?) never intended for us.

      Reply
      1. nofelix

        Yeah this aspect is really worrying me about a lot of the responses posted here. Keeping the grieving family in the dark is not compassionate if it means they later find out they stiffed a vulnerable baby out of medical funds. They have to be told, even if the money isn’t retrieved immediately.

        Reply
    3. JB

      If I were in this situation, I would want to just let the grieving family keep the money. I would advocate for this with my coworkers who also gave money. I understand the principle that they gave the money in good faith that it was for the family withe the baby, but I just think that the need to be sensitive to the grieving family trumps that.

      Reply
  9. Detective Amy Santiago

    Was there any sort of written communication about this? Like, could you show the family emails or something that says this was the arrangement? I feel like if you can say to the family “I know this is a difficult time, but Jane was supposed to write a check for Cersei and we were hoping you could help us out with that” and provide them documentation showing that you’re not trying to pull one over, that might help.

    Also, would it be possible to split the donation between the coworker with the premature baby and this family?

    Reply
      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        Man, when we’re looking to King Solomon to resolve an ethical dilemma, you know it’s gotten real.

        Reply
        1. Aurion

          Slightly tangential, but I don’t get the Solomon reference? I thought King Solomon was stupendously wealthy, which doesn’t seem to apply here?

          Reply
          1. fposte

            It’s a reference to his decree, in a case where two mothers claimed the same child, to cut the baby in two. (The notion being that the real mother would let the kid go to the other rather than cut him in half, but it’s the cutting in half that’s relevant here.)

            Reply
          2. Code Monkey, the SQL

            The judgement of Solomon is a Biblical episode in which he’s appealed to by two women both laying claim to a baby. Solomon’s solution is to cut the baby in half and give half to each woman. The woman whose baby it actually isn’t immediately relinquishes her claim because she’d rather not have him than see him die, which is how he determines who the mother with the false claim is.

            Reply
          3. AnonNurse

            In the Bible there were two women who lived in the same home and each had a baby. One of the babies died and each woman claimed the living baby to be her child. They went before king Solomon to resolve the problem. Solomon said to bring him a sword and he would cut the baby in half so that each would have part. One woman said yes, that way neither would have a baby. The other woman said no, not to kill the baby and to just give the baby to the other woman as long as it was alive. Solomon proclaimed that this woman was the baby’s true mother and ordered for the baby to go to her.

            Reply
          4. otherworldling

            He was also said to be the wisest man who ever lived. If you google “judgement of Solomon” there’s a story where two women claim to be the mother of a child and he determines which is right and who gets the baby. I’m assuming that’s the reference IvyGirl was making.

            Reply
          5. That Would Be a Good Band Name

            I think you might have been thinking of Midas for the wealthy part. Or maybe Solomon was wealthy too and I missed that part.

            Reply
            1. Poohbear McGriddles

              Solomon was both wealthy and wise. Although he also had 700 wives, which meant he also had 700 (give or take) mothers-in-law.

              Reply
    1. Sal

      I’m kind of with you. I think you can be over the top with your language to the grieving family, like, “Obviously this is the most horrible time to be bringing this up” etc, FWIW. But if I were grieving family and I found out later that we used other people’s money, essentially without their permission, that actually “belonged” to a family with a sick baby, I’d be utterly mortified. I’d err on the side of reaching out to grieving family or someone you know to be close to them, with all possible sensitivity. And see if the office can do another round of donations to grieving family.

      Reply
      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        Right? I’m trying to put myself in their shoes and if I found out later that this was a thing, I would feel awful. I mean, yes, it sucks a lot, but I would want to know.

        Reply
      2. Cafe au Lait

        This is my feeling too. If my husband died and he was holding onto money for a department raised cause, I would absolutely want to know. Chances are he’s already told me about it but it slipped my mind in the chaos of grief.

        Reply
        1. potato

          Good point. If they have a joint account the deceased worker probably told her husband that the extra $1500 on their balance sheet was for a premie.

          Reply
        2. k

          Yep. Even if my spouse hadn’t mentioned it to me, I’d see the random deposit in the bank account and wonder what it was. And I’d absolutely want to know that it was meant for that baby. It might even be of some comfort knowing that one of my spouses last acts was a good deed.

          Reply
          1. Gadfly

            We don’t know if it was one large deposit or many small ones as donations were made, however. And I wouldn’t know by looking at my father’s accounts–so if it is someone less financially intertwined than a spouse, it may raise no questions.

            Reply
      3. Caro in the UK

        Yeah, I was trying to put myself in the position of the grieving family and I honestly don’t know how I would react in the moment it was brought up; I might be OK, I might be horribly upset, I might even be angry. But I do know that once the fog of grief had cleared a little, I would be mortified to have diverted money from the premie’s family in their time of need. I would definitely want to know, even if it was hard to hear.

        Reply
      4. Risha

        I agree. We don’t know the grieving family’s financial situation, of course, but I’d like to think that in their place, I’d bend over backwards to make that donation still happen. And if the money is already gone/tied up in court, I’d be mortified but still want to know. Maybe the full amount now can’t happen for legal reasons, but a lesser amount later might still be on the table.

        Reply
      5. aebhel

        Same. Grief can make people not be their best selves, but I think most decent people would be horrified to find out that this had happened after the fact.

        Reply
      6. Ted Mosby

        Oof. I didn’t even think of that. I would feel beyond terrible if I spent someone’s NICU money and then couldn’t pay it back.

        Reply
  10. TL -

    If both families are struggling with expenses, do you think your coworkers works be okay splitting the donation? If so, you could approach the family and say, “X was collecting a donation for Y, of $1500. In light of the recent tragedy, we’d actually like y’all to keep $750 of that and split the donation.”

    I think then you have a kind reason to bring it to but can also help out the original recipients.

    Reply
      1. SansaStark

        I like this idea, too. It always helps a tough message if you start with what you *can* do — in this situation, the workers can give you half.

        Reply
    1. animaniactoo

      This is what I was thinking, I think it’s the best way to approach it – because it’s pretty likely that people *would* have donated if this had come up independently, and I think it would feel better for the office as a whole to recognize and honor that as well.

      Reply
    2. Horse Lover

      I think this is the only way you can do this. I know that you all gave for the first family but this family is having to raise funds to cover funeral and hospital costs so I think asking for the full $1500+ from the account would just be bad all around. Like another commenter said, that’s like saying one tragedy is more important than another.

      I’m trying to envision myself in the position of the second family being asked for that money, while I’m in the midst of grief and fund raising myself and any way I think of it, I just can’t see an outcome where I wouldn’t be terribly offended. Perhaps after given some space from the tragedy, but then the money could already be spent.

      Reply
  11. N

    I would imagine that this could be brought up as part of the larger conversation that the company might have with the family about final procedural things, such as drawing up the manager’s final paycheck with unused PTO, returning the manager’s personal items and retrieving items that belong to the company, etc. That kind of a situation is already painful and difficult, but I would imagine that if OP or someone else in the company explained the situation, any reasonable family would be more than happy to help.

    I’m so sorry, OP.

    Reply
    1. N

      Also! If the manager was collecting donations for the employee whose wife/child was in the ICU, I feel like the manager’s family must have already heard about it. They’re obviously struggling financially right now, but I still think that they would not be pleased to find out that they were still holding on to money that was originally intended for someone else, and that their deceased family member had intended to use the money for a very specific purpose.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        If I were doing this at work, I would not necessarily have discussed it with my husband — I don’t think we can assume they know about it.

        Reply
        1. N

          That’s true. I feel like a member of the family may have heard that there was an office member whose family was having a medical issue…that could be a way to gently bring up the funds. “As you may have heard from [manager], [employee]’s wife has been in the ICU due to [circumstance]. I’m not sure if [manager] brought this up with you, but [manager] had raised money among the staff to help cover some of their expenses…”

          Reply
          1. N

            Sorry, *but I feel that a member of the family may have heard about the office member whose family had the medical issue

            Reply
  12. Jen

    You have two work families that have experienced horrible events in their lives. It sounds as if one clearly has a financial need (family of deceased manager) and the other may or may not have a financial need but clearly is in need of support.

    I think it’s poor etiquette to ask the deceased manager’s family to reimburse you, because it will leave them asking, “Why is one work colleague’s event deserving of a donation yet ours isn’t?”

    I’d hope your business could dig deep to at least come up with some funds to help out, but if they refuse to do so, I’d encourage you and your colleagues to think about other ways in which you might help your co-worker whose wife gave birth to the premature baby. While money is nice, there are many other ways you might be able to help them, including:
    * Donating your sick/vacation days so the husband can take paid leave
    * Cooking meals for the family, both while their child is in the hospital and after they come home
    * Offering to drive them places, run errands, petsit their animals or help with childcare for other children
    * If they have family coming into town, picking them up from the airport and/or driving them to the hospital
    * Creating care packages for the family
    * Offering to mow their lawn, clean their house or take on other day-to-day responsibilities

    Reply
      1. my name is Rory

        The business matching isn’t an option. The letter writer states it’s a small business without the funds to cover the cheque.

        Reply
        1. Manders

          I’m not an accountant, so I don’t know if this is even an option, but could they possibly take the money that would have been the manager’s salary for the next few weeks and donate that? It seems like it would take at least a few weeks to hire someone new anyway, and presumably they can scrape at least that much money together or nobody would be getting paid.

          Reply
          1. Caro in the UK

            This was my first thought as well.

            However, I do know several people working for businesses where this simply wouldn’t be possible, because they have super tight margins and have “death in service” benefits which would wipe out any savings from not paying that person’s salary until a new hire was made.

            Reply
            1. Natalie

              Death-in-service benefits aren’t really a thing in the US. The company might provide life insurance, but that payout would come from an insurance company.

              Reply
          2. BPT

            I think this is the best suggestion. For a (not exorbitant) $40,000 salary, $1500 that would be less than two weeks pay. Unless the employee worked on commission and literally brought in their salary, I feel like the company could do this.

            Reply
        2. Lindsay J

          I feel like if the business has margins so tight they can’t cover $1500, they have a huge issue.

          I mean, that can easily be spent in a day if there’s a problem with any of the office equipment or similar. Or if there is a mistake calculating payroll, or if a check is cut incorrectly to a vendor or client or somefthung.

          It basically means they’re one accident or mistake away from instant financial ruin, and that the owner of the company is also one issue away from financial ruin (if they’re not willing/able to match funds out of their personal account.

          Reply
      2. Aurion

        Yeah, I think asking the company to match is the kindest approach. As morbid as it is, there is one less person on payroll, so I think even a small business can get the funds…

        Reply
    1. The IT Manager

      Why is the family of the deceased in more monetary need than the family of the premature baby? I think it would be the other way around. The premature baby’s medical expenses could go on for years.

      The deceased person should have had life insurance which should cover her funeral expenses. I’d also estimate their medical expenses will end up being less than premature baby’s in the long run.

      Reply
      1. Sal

        I think you’re probably right on how the expenses likely will shake out, but it seems like grieving family doesn’t have access to enough funds right now to let/make them NOT set up a gofundme, if you know what I mean.

        Reply
      2. animaniactoo

        Hospitals will generally work with you on bills, and you can be in debt for a long time paying them off. Which also gives more time for people to rebuild stores of ability to give again at some point in the future.

        On the other hand, funerals are more expensive than you may realize – particularly if you don’t already have a plot paid for. And many funeral homes will not work on a loan/credit/bill later basis. It’s pay now or don’t get a funeral.

        For reference, I’m in NYC, my grandfather’s funeral was 3 years ago, he already had the plot, and his funeral with literally the cheapest options (black suv instead of full hearse, pinewood box, sheet not shroud (he would have killed us for spending his money on something that “insignificant” to him), graveside service only), was about $6,000.

        A friend in Louisiana was working to raise funds at a similar point for her husband’s funeral, which was going to cost $5,000. I’m not sure what options she choose, but I’m sure it was pretty barebones.

        So it is actually likely that the funeral expenses are the more urgent ones. Particularly because if the baby is still in the NICU, the hospital legally cannot refuse to treat/discharge the baby/etc.

        Reply
        1. Jesmlet

          If we’re debating who is more in need, to put it in stark terms, I’d have to argue that it’s the living person with the massive hospital bill, not the deceased. The average cost of a cremation is around $1000 and we know she had at least that much money. Any cost above that is the family’s choice, but the hospital costs are a need.

          Reply
          1. animaniactoo

            Again though, the hospital will work with you on bills, and it’s not a situation where the baby is not going to get the treatment that they need as they need it.

            (fwiw, we are currently paying off a hospital bill that we’ll be paying for the next 3 to 8 years after my husband unexpectedly spent a month there last year.)

            Please note: I actually think the best thing to do would be to split the donation between both, or have the company use the money “saved” from the manager’s salary not being needed until a new manager is hired (see below discussion on that) to cover the donation to the preemie family. I’m just arguing when it comes down to hard numbers and if you really had to choose between the two *right now*, cremation is an awful thing for people who end up stuck with it vs actively choosing and preferring it, and the hospital will bill you later whereas the funeral home probably won’t.

            Reply
            1. Jesmlet

              We do agree on what the best solution would be. As far as burial plans, since I’d prefer to be cremated and have very little concern for what’s done with my lump of cells after I die, I’m struggling to understand that point of view but I’ll trust that people do legitimately feel that way. I’m just coming from a place of prioritizing the needs of the living over the dead and am having a harder time than usual seeing the situation in a different way (but I am trying!)

              Reply
              1. animaniactoo

                Does it help if you look at the feelings of the family members as part of the needs of the living?

                I’m not entirely sure about how I feel about cremation vs burial for myself, but I know that my grandmother strongly wanted cremation and my husband is strongly opposed to cremation or organ donation but wants a pinewood box not a fancy coffin that costs money. If I were forced to go against his wishes for financial reasons, I 100% know that he’d tell me the baby should be helped but that he’ll haunt me forever regardless (we are major chopbusters, it wouldn’t be real vindictiveness, just him mentally coping). And I’d do it with a clear conscience, but I’d always feel regret about having to do it.

                Reply
                1. Jesmlet

                  Yes that’s how I was trying to get at it but honestly I’m not quite there. I think I’m at an ‘agree to disagree’ impasse here but I appreciate the different points of view.

      3. BananaPants

        Yes, this is the side I’m on. The funds were explicitly raised for the family of the baby. Why is the manager’s family perceived as being more worthy of those funds because her estate happens to be possessing them? If she’d written the check and died the next day, we wouldn’t be expecting the NICU family to return the gift to give to the manager’s family.

        Reply
    2. BethRA

      Those are all wonderful ways to help the family with the premie, but as someone posted upthread, the hospital bills for a premature infant can easily (and quickly) run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in the US. And I’d assume that if they’d gone to the trouble of collecting funds in the first place, that family clearly has a financial need.

      I don’t have an easy answer (although I, too, like the idea of the company matching the funds if possible), but I don’t think dismissing the first family’s need is it.

      Reply
    3. Wild Feminist

      I like your ideas a lot for a slightly different way – if the hospital bills really are a big burden, when it comes down to it, $1,500 really won’t make much of a difference, and it would just be gone. But, a whole office banding together to find organized ways to support the family with the preemie? That lasts forever, doesn’t cost much, and is a whole lot more meaningful.

      Another idea would be for the office to find another way to raise funds. People hold fundraisers all the time for all kinds of things. Hold a bakesale, a car wash, sell a special run of whatever the company makes, organize a company-wide garage sale, etc.

      Reply
      1. BananaPants

        Honestly, this comes across as a way to weasel out of having a hard conversation with the family of the deceased. The NICU family’s needs sound to be at least partially financial, given that funds were raised in lieu of starting a meal train, helping with Fido, donating sick time for the employee parent, etc.

        Reply
    4. PB

      I love these suggestions. A friend recently had a premature baby. They try to get as much free time as possible, so they can spend more time at the hospital with the baby. Having people take care of day-to-day responsibilities, from cooking to feeding Fido or sweeping the porch, helps a lot.

      Reply
  13. Katie the Fed

    Is the company or CEO in any position to just quietly make a $1500 gift to the employee with the premature baby (I don’t know about the tax implications, but maybe a little more to account for taxes).

    It’s not THAT much money but would buy a lot of employee goodwill, I think. And save everyone from this awful, awkward situation.

    Reply
    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

      Yeah, this could be another approach. Company funds could match the donations.

      Reply
    2. Purest Green

      Yeah, I’m scratching my head a bit about how even a small business couldn’t cover a $1500 charitable donation.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I doubt it would be technically a charitable donation, though; a business that might be able to put an actual deductible donation on the books isn’t necessarily in a position to pony up $1500 cash.

        Reply
    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      Yes, this. $1,500 is a lot of money, but for many senior-level folks it is not insurmountable.

      Reply
    4. animaniactoo

      I think this is also a good idea. If possible, I would still let family #2 know that the money was there but the choice has been made to donate it to them instead to head off a potential situation of “we got no support from the company she worked for, even though we know they helped out somebody else around the same time”.

      Reply
      1. TL -

        I would contact them and let them know! I would just say, “You may or may not have know that X was collecting charitable donations for another family in our company. In light of the recent events, we want you to keep that money as a donation from us; the company has decided to match the donation to the other family.”

        I would be concerned about where the $1500 came from if I was going through my spouse’s account, so it would be nice to know; it would also be great support if I knew it came from their coworkers.

        Reply
      2. Susie Cruisie

        +1. Not to be cold, but if you don’t ‘tell’ the family that these funds are being diverted into a donation to them, they may resent the deceased’s employer for not making a donation in their time of need. I know it sounds crummy, but you want to be sure you ‘get credit’ for any donation.

        Reply
    5. my name is Rory

      The letter writer stated that it is a small business does not have the funds to cover another cheque and that people dug deep and can’t afford to donate more. So that’s not an option for them.

      Reply
      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        I know that’s how they’re thinking right now, but….it’s not that much money, even for a small business to shake some trees for.

        Reply
      2. Katie the Fed

        I can’t really reconcile a company that has enough employees to come up with $1500 but that’s not big enough to somehow find that money in their operating expenses. And as much as I really do hate to state the obvious here – they’re down one employee right now and probably haven’t filled that position yet, so there’s got to be a little extra money in payroll for a bit. I could obviously be wrong, but I feel like it’s worth it for the company to come up with it somehow.

        Reply
        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

          Yeah, that’s a little ghoulish but it’s obvious – you’re not paying her, so there’s one place $1500 can come from.

          Reply
          1. my name is Rory

            Alison has asked that we take letter writers at their word. The letter writer here has said the business cannot write another cheque to cover the costs. The letter writer is in a position to know better than us. If they say it’s not an option we should believe them. If the business could cover it presumably the letter writer would have never written to Alison.

            Reply
            1. Katie the Fed

              Unless OP is intimately familiar with their finances, she may not be in a position to know either way. It’s a small company, yes. But they’re also now not paying a manager’s salary. There’s no reason to dismiss it as a possible solution, unless they’ve already considered it and said they can’t make it work.

              Reply
            2. Grapey

              The LW said individual people dug deep and they couldn’t afford to go again…it very well may be a different story if someone handling business financials was contacted.

              Reply
          2. The Strand

            I think we can take the letter writer at her word, but it doesn’t negate Katie the Fed’s comments. They’re down a FTE, someone who they are not having to pay.

            I’d like to hear from the letter writer that, yes, someone did in fact approach the company heads (not just discuss amongst themselves) and ask them whether there was $1500 in the budget to match the fundraising, so that the grieving family does not even have to be approached about giving back the money.

            Because the letter writer did not specifically state she had asked the company, and did not say the business cannot write another check to cover the costs. The letter writer said “Many people dug deep… no one can really afford to give again.” That seemed to me to cover her colleagues, not the company itself.

            I have been involved in several small businesses – never affording employees, just contractors. You need a lot more capital to pay salaries, FICA, etc. Believe me, a small business that has employees usually can come up with $1500. If we were talking about a sole proprietor, or a husband-wife partnership, and everyone is part-time or a contractor, OK. But $1500 is not going to break the bank of most SBs with employees. It’s also the kind of good faith measure that I believe many business owners would be happy to take.

            Reply
          1. Meg Murry

            But on the other “math is math” hand – if the company is self insured and offers their employees life insurance and health insurance, a preemie with a NICU stay plus life insurance for the deceased employee could equal a really expensive year for them. My mother worked for a similarly sized small business that was self insured, and an employee getting cancer or needing a stay in the NICU meant much higher insurance costs the next year and/or they had to change insurance companies. Plus if the NICU employee has had to take a lot of time off, they may have had to pay overtime to other employees to cover that work.

            It’s also possible that the company is a non-profit that can’t make a donation to the employee – there are legal rules around it, and tax implications.

            But ugh, this situation stinks for everyone.

            Reply
            1. CDM

              Self-insured companies (should!) have stop loss reinsurance in place for large healthcare claims. Any claim above $125,000 triggers the stop loss reinsurance carried by my relatively small employer.

              Above expected payouts will increase employee contributions the following year (depending on what the employer is wiling to pay vs: shifting to the employees), but would not mean “changing insurance companies” to reduce costs. Because a self-insured company is only paying the insurance company to manage the network and administer claims, not paying them premiums.

              We “changed insurance companies” for 2017 – which means just that employer is paying large well-known insurer for access to their network and claims management instead of paying small, hyper local, virtually useless insurer more money for the less access.

              Changing insurance companies after a big healthcare year to reduce premiums was very common with small employers who were not self-insured pre-ACA. The ACA grouped small businesses together for rating, mitigating the impact of one bad year on premiums for individual small companies.

              Given how cheap group term life is these days (and term life in general) self-insurance for life insurance is a poor business decision.

              Reply
      3. Jesmlet

        If a company can’t find $1500, especially when they don’t have to pay someone’s salary for a couple weeks (morbid, I know), then there are much bigger problems over there. More likely this is a choice not to contribute or they just haven’t been directly asked.

        Reply
    6. Dr. Doll

      I know *I* would do it in a minute. I’ve been given a lot in my life, this is a serious pay it forward moment.

      Reply
    7. AARP Tax-Aide Volunteer

      This is an aside but since you mentioned taxes: assuming this is in the US, for individuals making gifts to other individuals, taxes are always solely the responsibility of the gifter, not the recipient. In addition, $1500 is well below the gift tax exclusion for individuals ($14,000 in 2016).

      None of the gift would be tax-deductible however: the IRS specifically excludes gifts made to individuals from being deductible.

      I can’t speak to the tax implications for a business making a gift to an individual.

      (Source: Volunteer for AARP Tax-Aide)

      Reply
      1. Natalie

        A business cannot give cash gifts to its own employees tax free – it’s considered income, same as their salary. It’s easy enough to gross up, though, so the net the employee receives is $1500.

        Reply
    8. Vin Packer

      This is what needs to happen.

      If it can’t for some reason (or really, “won’t, according to powers above the OP,” more likely), then perhaps:

      Dear (family contact),

      I’m sorry to add to your to-do list, but I wanted to follow up on something we had been working on with (Deceased). (Deceased) had been collecting donations for (Other Family) and had intended to deliver the money to them on (date). Has anybody come across it, or are any of you aware of what might have happened to it? The total amount was around $1,500; I have attached a copy of our most recent communications about it.

      Thank you so much for looking into this. We certainly do miss (Deceased) around here.

      Warmly,
      OP

      Reply
      1. Vin Packer

        Then, depending on how they respond, you can say either “we have discussed it and we would like you to keep half of the money for (Deceased)’s expenses” and thank them profusely, or just let it go.

        But I don’t think it makes sense to not even ask about it.

        Reply
  14. The IT Manager

    It’s right to get the money back and to donate to the family with the premature child. It will be hard to do. Someone should speak to a family member (preferably not the closest family member) and explain the situation. I certainly would not want to be that someone, however.

    If someone needs help bucking themselves up for this conversation keep in the mind that the family of the premature baby will probably have ongoing medical bills for years.

    Reply
    1. The IT Manager

      I do love the idea of splitting the money between the two families if there’s no way to do another fundraiser. And I do understand how individuals may have dug deep for the first donation.

      Reply
    2. TL -

      Probably, but as the family with the premature baby is not owed the charitable donation, I’m not sure it would be worth the pain of having the conversation with the grieving family *just* to ask for the money back. Especially since they may have already spent the money and may not be able to pay it back. (or may not be in the headspace to do so.)

      I wouldn’t contact them just to ask for the money back. $1500 is a lot, and a very generous donation, but if premature baby family’s bills run up into the hundreds of thousands, it’s not going to make a big difference. And it’s also not okay to tell the grieving family that they should be putting someone else’s pain above their own.

      Reply
      1. The IT Manager

        A lot of commenters (including ones who have lost family members) have expressed better than me that they believe that given the manager was in charge of the collection that they probably were enthusiastic about donating, that family members would be happy to hear of the deceased’s generosity, and would want the money (that was never actually theirs or their deceased family members’) to go to the people it was collected for.

        Ethically it is not their money. The hardest thing is asking for it back with the least amount of pain possible.

        Reply
      2. tigerlily

        Personally, I don’t understand this kind of thinking. $1500 is going to make $1500 of difference. That’s $1500 this family doesn’t have to put together. Sure, there might still be hundred of thousands of dollars left to go, but that’s now $1500 they don’t have to worry about.

        And while I understand the sentiment that the grieving family shouldn’t have to put someone else’s pain before their own, neither should the family of the premature baby. That family may have been well aware of this gift and been counting on it. Why should they have to be burdened by the grief of the other family when they have struggles of their own? Even if they DIDN’T know, why is okay for them to be burdened by the other family’s grief?

        None of this is easy, and I don’t think there is a perfect or a comfortable solution. But I agree with those above who said if I was the family of the deceased and realized later that I’d inadvertently kept money that was supposed to help a struggling family with a sick infant – I’d be mortified.

        Reply
      3. Stellaaaaa

        The family with the baby isn’t owed the gift, but this isn’t the company’s gift. Each employee is entitled to decide where to spend their money, and they chose to give it to the baby. If the company decided to just give those donations to someone else (or essentially, to let the employees in charge of the donations keep the money for their own families, since that’s what happened here – the person who collected the money didn’t pay it out and her family used it), that’s tapping into every annoyance about workplace charity drives and cash-only jeans days.

        Reply
        1. Martin Crane

          If I were one of the people who had dug deep to donate, I would certainly feel that the family with the baby was owed the money.

          Reply
        2. BananaPants

          Exactly. If I had donated to help a coworker who had a very premature baby, I would expect the money to go to that coworker’s family. I wouldn’t be OK with, “Oh, now Jane’s family needs money too, so let’s let them keep it and make Wakeen some lasagnas!” Having it be diverted for another purpose by the company would ensure that I’d never donate to another workplace donation campaign, whether an official charity drive or an informal collection.

          If she had cut the check and died a day later, no one would be going the employee with the preemie and asking for the money back to give to Jane’s family.

          Reply
      4. aebhel

        It’s not a company donation. If I had donated money–especially money I could ill afford–to a cause, I would certainly feel like they were owed that money. It’s not ‘putting someone else’s pain above their own’; it is not the grieving family’s money. They may not be able to pay it back, in which case I would let it go rather than cause them more pain. But they are not entitled to that money–and more importantly, they are entitled to know about the situation. Keeping this from them just because nobody wants to have a difficult conversation is cowardly.

        Reply
      5. Gadfly

        Hospital bills are the least of it. Eating at the hospital cafeteria day after day, taking unpaid time off and trying to keep the lights on at home–stuff like that makes the $1500 invaluable. It buys a LOT of diapers when that need happens.

        There is a reason Aflac exists.

        Reply
  15. KatieKate

    Oh boy.

    First, I would collect the paper trail for the donations. Any emails, and of course the spreadsheet. And if there is anything in the manager’s office that indicated that they had collected the funds and were planning on writing the check.

    Second, I tastefully attempt to figure out who the executor of the manager’s estate is. Hopefully it’s someone other than a family member, but if it’s not a lawyer then I’m not sure what to do. If it’s a lawyer or accountant, I would bring the paperwork to them and see what can be done.

    This is a horrible situation, and I’m sorry you and your coworkers have found yourself in it.

    In the meantime, is it possible for you and your coworkers to offer other kinds of support? Bringing meals to both families, child care, etc.? I hate to think that you’re out this money, but I think you have to acknowledge that it may be the case.

    Reply
    1. TL -

      Oh, yeah! if it’s a lawyer handling the estate, I wouldn’t hesitate to bring it up to the lawyer – they should be experienced with dealing with awkward financial situations with the grieving and will know how to handle it.

      Reply
  16. Christy

    Would you have tried to help the deceased coworker’s family with funeral costs if the money you raised had successfully gone to the other coworker’s premature baby? I suspect you would have, because y’all seem like good, caring people. It might have been less money but I bet you still would have given something. In that spirit, I’d act as if the events had been chronologically reversed–let the deceased coworker’s family keep the money and take up a smaller second collection for the premature baby. I think it’s the kindest way of proceeding.

    Reply
  17. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    This is awful.

    I’d say that you should just let this go. Both coworkers’ families are in need. Ideally, the money would be split (surely you would also have fundraised for Coworker B, were you not all tapped out by the fundraiser for Coworker A). But I think you just can’t ask a grieving family — one that needs donations — to deal with giving back this money.

    Reply
  18. Venus Supreme

    This is an awful situation; OP, I am so sorry for your situation. I can’t imagine how everyone is feeling with one colleague with a baby in the hospital and another colleague who tragically passed away.

    If your company is on board with this idea, I suggest splitting the intended donated money between the two families. If there is someone who was close with the colleague who passed away and has a way of gently delivering bad news, I’d have them confront a family member and delicately explain the situation. That way the donation will benefit both coworkers. There is also a chance that someone in the manager’s family knew about the other coworker’s baby being in the hospital, assuming all the employees were close with each other and the deceased coworker was close with her family.

    I tried typing out a script and realized it’s terribly difficult. However, I feel terrible that the coworker with a baby in the hospital isn’t getting the support, and so I do believe a conversation is at least worth having. If there’s any pushback I wouldn’t argue. I strongly recommend reaching out to Captain Awkward on how to start this conversation.

    My best wishes are with you, OP.

    Reply
    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

      I think they’d need to be direct but kind. “I’m so, so sorry to have to approach you in this incredibly difficult time, but there’s a time-sensitive situation with donated funds [decedent] was in control of. Our coworker [Daddy]’s newborn baby is in the NICU and the employees of [company] had raised $1500 to support the family. Those funds were in [decedent’s] account and she was planning to cut them the check. Their expenses are mounting, and we’d like to make those donations available to them. I realize this is a crushing imposition at this time, but could we discuss a way to get access to those funds?”

      That said, writing it out, I’m more and more convinced that the company should cover the $1500 for the parent and the approach should be “we raised $1500 for another cause, but we’d love for you to take that with our best wishes and use them for your expenses, and we’re so very sorry for your loss.”

      Reply
      1. Venus Supreme

        I do think the easy route would be for the company to cover the $1,500. I think because I work in small nonprofit companies, I’m reading OP’s letter as if they work in a similar environment (“We don’t work for a large company with the funds for another check, it’s a small business. Many people dug deep to give a donation and no one can really afford to do it again.”). I don’t know if the company would ask OP, upon requesting the additional donation, if they had thought about asking for the money back. It’s also very possible for a compassionate CEO/Board Member/another higher-up to make a personal donation to the baby’s family. I have a good feeling that a higher-up here at my organization would make the donation with a compelling case, but I don’t know how OP’s business operates.

        Reply
      2. Clairels

        Your script is good, but seeing it written out still looks awful. All the gentleness and tact in the world doesn’t make up for the fact that you’re shaking them down in their time of grief.

        Reply
        1. Natalie

          Oh come on, no one is shaking them down. The family isn’t being swindled or extorted, they are being asked to return money that isn’t theirs.

          Reply
  19. Doe-Eyed

    I’d let their family keep it to help cover funeral costs and fundraise again for the first family, but that’s just me.

    Reply
  20. AnotherAlison

    I have to say I am a little surprised that others here think that this should be brought up with the car crash victim’s family. This was a horrible accident resulting in an untimely death. I have lost a few friends and family members to tragic untimely deaths, and their immediate family members (the only ones who could possibly get to the money) were in no shape to deal with this type of thing for months. I understand this was a large sum of money for the coworkers to pull together, but I don’t think it is enough to bother a grieving family about, esp. when the fact that it didn’t belong to the manager isn’t easy to legally prove (you’ve got the spreadsheet, but the family doesn’t know you or what you had going on with that.)

    AND that it will likely be needed by that family, too. That makes it really awkward. You would have to approach a family in need to get back money that coworkers raised for. . .a family in need. That would be pretty insulting, IMO.

    Reply
    1. Christy

      Yeah, I can’t fathom being contacted for such a thing while I was mourning such a sudden loss. Honestly, I would consider it unforgiveable, fair or not. Particularly if I were already struggling with the expenses associated with the death.

      Reply
      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        I’ve lost folks suddenly, and I certainly would find it forgivable. It wouldn’t be easy to deal with, but in the same place, I’d find it understandable.

        Reply
        1. TL -

          I wouldn’t consider it unforgiveable – but I’m also pretty sure it wouldn’t be on the top of my priority list for months. So you could ask, and I would eventually hand over the money, but it would be eventually, not immediately.

          Reply
      2. Miss Elaine E.

        That’s understandable, but as someone said upthread, if the grieving family found out later that they used $1,500 meant for a seriously ill infant, they’d be mortified.

        Reply
        1. CoffeeLover

          I think they should tell the family they raised the funds but would now like to donate it to them. Others have suggested it with better wording.

          I agree with AnotherAlison… asking one family in need (who lost someone in a tragic accident for Christs sake) and could really use the extra financial help to give this money to another family in need is wrong. It would be different if the family weren’t raising money… but now it would almost seem like you’re saying the first “tragedy” is worse/more deserving of money than the second. A funeral happens once, babies take a while to grow up. Raise funds for the premmie family later on.

          Also I doubt any of your coworkers would have issue with this resolution. If they do they’re out of line. I meam how would the preemie family feel if they found out you took this money out of the hands of another family that needed it.

          Reply
          1. PM Jesper Berg

            “Also I doubt any of your coworkers would have issue with this resolution. If they do they’re out of line.”
            Sorry, but *no-one* is “out of line” to say how their charitable contributions are spent. There are some charities I support. There are some I don’t. Period.

            Reply
    2. The One with the Brother

      It’s so interesting to me how people can feel so differently about this. I can understand both sides, but as someone who lost an immediate family member in a car crash, I feel opposite. And that’s okay. :)

      Reply
      1. KellyK

        Yeah, I feel exactly the opposite. I’d be horrified to find out a year or two later that money was collected for someone else, I’d never known about it, and that I had unknowingly spent it on something else.

        Reply
      2. FDCA In Canada

        Yeah, same. I’ve lost family in very sudden and tragic circumstances. Honestly, something like this would not be anywhere near as devastating as what was already going on–it would really just be one more thing to get stacked onto the to-do list of everything that needs to get taken care of financially and paperwork-wise.

        Reply
      3. Jesmlet

        I just lost a cousin to a car crash last month – he was 37. If I found out later on that we spent money belonging to another family in need, I would be doubly devastated. I would cut funeral costs any way possible if I knew that money was intended for a sick child. Even if they came to me and said we should keep it, I would’ve at least offered to split it.

        Reply
    3. Roscoe

      But you also have a co-worker with a baby in the ICU fighting for life. And that money WAS meant for that family. It is awkward, but it doesn’t make it wrong.

      Reply
    4. Dislike Names

      I felt the same way, AnotherAlison – I was super surprised that so many people were okay with bringing it up.

      And I do see that there are people who wouldn’t be upset about being approached at all, but I would want to proceed on the side of caution and assume they will be grief-stricken and unable to care, at the moment, about anything other than the horrific and sudden loss they just experienced. If the person died and was very old, or had a known disease, perhaps I’d feel differently. But a sudden, tragic loss is not something you want to mess with, in my opinion. I would always assume they are the most heartbroken they can be, instead of thinking “maybe they are okay”.

      At the very least, I’d wait for a few months when the shock may have worn off. And hope that by then, the funds would still be useful to the original family.

      Reply
    5. BananaPants

      The thing is, the employees who donated intended the money to go to another colleague. If the deceased manager had cut the check and then died, no one would expect the original recipients to give back the money. The manager’s family’s need doesn’t negate the original need and purpose of the fundraising.

      This is a good reminder not to mix personal finances with fundraising. Ever.

      Reply
  21. HR Manager

    I only have this thought up. Not sure if it’ll work. I work in HR, so assuming she had life insurance, I would call the beneficiary, asking if they need any help with paperwork, etc (of course, first saying sorry for the loss, etc). Then..

    “Okay, well let me know if you need anything else from us here. I’m happy to help with any paperwork, and again I am sorry for your loss.”
    “Thanks, I will.”
    “Oh, and I do have one question I’m not sure you could answer. Your wife/spouse (insert relationship here) organized a fund raiser here for Paul’s pre mature daughter. Unfortunately, we’re not sure what the next step is on that. Were you aware of it?”

    And…hopefully they are aware of it, and it’ll trigger ‘Oh yeah, y’all need a check.”

    But I don’t know, might still seem cold hearted.

    Reply
    1. Longtime Lurker

      All the answers on the board I think are well-thought out, but I think this is the best route to go (and I could be wrong, but I’m assuming that an HR Representative would at some point automatically reach out to the family to sort through these things, they should be notified of this as well) – if nothing else, it explains to the next-of-kin why there is an unexplained $1500 deposit in the account.

      Reply
    2. Is it Friday Yet?

      If they’re not, the person that has this conversation might say something like…

      “As you know ____ was always putting other before herself. In her last few months, she put together a fundraiser for ____ and managed to raise over $1,500 that would go towards medical bills. _____ had planned to write a check and deliver it to the family on ____ as all of the funds were collected in her personal bank account. ”

      But I really would wait a couple of weeks to have this discussion.

      Reply
  22. nnn

    1. Will the family with the premature baby still be in need several months from now (as opposed to their need being immediate and then going away)?
    2. If this car crash had happened under normal circumstances, would your co-workers be inclined to donate to the hospital bill and the funeral expenses?

    If the answer to both these questions is yes, maybe the best thing would be to just quietly consider the $1500 the donation to the bereaved family, and fundraise for the family with the preemie again in a month or two?

    Still not ideal because the preemie was there first and people might not be inclined to donate the same amount to both families, but might be the approach that would cause the least net pain

    Reply
    1. Chriama

      Question 3 – would coworkers have been inclined to donate as generously to the deceased coworker’s funeral expenses? I think that’s a really critical question.

      Reply
  23. Interviewer

    First of all, I am very sorry for your loss.

    If this car accident happened to one of my family members, and someone from the company reached out to share this story with me, I would do everything I could to get that money to you. Give me the spreadsheet, I’ll talk to the bank and get it done. I would understand that’s not my family member’s money, that it was going to be used for a different purpose. I would not, even in the deepest of grief over the loss, consider for one second that the money should be used on final expenses.

    I truly understand your hesitancy to approach them during this tragic time – identify someone in the company that they may know of and that can handle this conversation sensitively. It should be done after the funeral, but don’t wait until the money is spent. Ideally, this is something they really need to know as they work on wrapping up the affairs.

    Reply
    1. Esperanza

      I agree. I would try to give the money back — especially knowing that my family member wanted to help this baby and collected the money for that purpose.

      You might run into someone who refuses to even consider this, or you might run into someone like me who feels strongly that the right thing to do is give the money back. If you approach it very sensitively and acknowledge that it is now the family’s choice, you might be surprised.

      Reply
    2. Britt

      I agree with this. I understand losing a loved one abruptly is difficult and awful but…life goes on, whether we like it or not. The money was meant to be allocated to the family of the premature baby and that is where it should go, not split, and not forgotten and left to the manager’s estate. The manager fully intended it to go to this coworker and his family. If I were the one who lost someone and this situation was presented to me with all the documents (emails, spreadsheets) I would be doing all I could to make it right and get that family their money.

      Reply
  24. The One with the Brother

    I genuinely enjoy when I’m able to employ what I’ve learned through my brother’s death (also a car crash) last summer in things like this. My brother was only 22, so this kind of situation would have been extremely unlikely and, of course, everyone is different so YMMV with this but here’s how I would feel about it:

    I think you can get the money. If my brother was your manager, I’d want to know. Yes, funerals, etc. are expensive (and someone opened a fundraiser for us and we collected $$$ for his kids in lieu of flowers). However, first, it would be heartening to hear that my brother had been kind enough to facilitate this on behalf of the couple with the premature baby. What a gift to know my brother (the manager in this case) was involved with something so kind. If you choose to speak to the family about it, emphasize how generous and kind it was of the manager to take responsibility for this. Embellish if you need to. It won’t hurt.

    Second, wait. There’s still trial crap to deal with in my brother’s death, but aside from that the first month was the most hectic and upsetting for my family. The best time to reach out (again, speaking from my own experience) would be two or three months after. I would avoid the date that matches the death date (so, if she died on the 18th, don’t get in touch on July 18th — the first few matching dates seem to be tough ones for a lot of people).

    These people may feel totally differently. If it were me, though, I’d want to know. I’d want to have an opportunity to continue my loved one’s legacy and this is such a beautiful, beautiful way to do it. Whenever I can help someone or extend their life in the name of my brother (whether he started something he didn’t finish or even if it has nothing to do with him, I still think of him — wow, this is something “Nathan” would do, what a beautiful way to give tribute, to make someone else’s life better), I do. Give them this opportunity. Don’t push if they say no, but don’t deny them the opportunity.

    Reply
    1. The One with the Brother

      Also, I want to mention I do recognize the money may be gone 2-3 months after. If you want to do it sooner, I think that’s okay.

      Reply
    2. The IT Manager

      I’m sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful sentiment. I’m sure your brother would be proud of what you’re doing in his name.

      Reply
      1. The One with the Brother

        I hope so too. (Though, knowing him, he probably wouldn’t care too much — makes me smile just to think of his nonchalant attitude, though. Maybe it was a facade.) And thanks. <3

        Reply
    3. Venus Supreme

      Thank you for sharing your story and sharing your brother’s spirit with us. I’ve lost a family member and a friend, both suddenly and tragically, within months of each other. I share your sentiments — keeping their spirits here with us, and making us feel that parts of them are still alive with us.

      Reply
    4. Philomath

      I am so, so glad to hear someone else with the same feelings as me. I would absolutely be enraged if I found out people had quietly let my family steal $1,500 from a baby in my deceased relative’s name.

      If instead they quickly informed me of what a wonderful thing my relative had been doing in the last days of their life and gave me a chance to be a part of it, I would be so grateful to be able to do that. I’d probably add in my own money to the collected donation, too.

      Reply
  25. Lis

    I would explain to the manager’s family that $1,500 was raised for the premature baby, but now that their family is also in need you’d like to split the donation and request only $750 of it back.

    Reply
    1. TL -

      I wouldn’t actually request – I would just say, “We’d love for y’all to use $750 of that to help with funeral expenses,” and let them take it from there.

      Reply
  26. Jeannalola

    I think the best way to approach the family is by emphasizing that this is something that the deceased wanted to do, or they would not have taken responsibility for collecting the funds and ultimately disbursing. And what a great person she was to help this poor little baby. This is such a circle of life situation. It won’t matter to the deceased manager if she has a lesser funeral, but helping the baby does matter. And morally and ethically, the money was raised for the baby. It usually takes awhile to get money out of an estate, however.

    Reply
    1. Starbuck

      Yeah, I think it’s tough to bring up to the family (and I’m not sure if I would even try honestly because it’s so sensitive) but if the family’s concern is to respect the wishes of the deceased, I’d imagine they’d want to pass on the money. If I had the chance to feel any way about it, I’d probably be disappointed if I knew that money I’d helped raise to improve someone’s life was spent on my death instead.

      Reply
  27. CatCat

    Wow, what an awful situation. I don’t think there is any way to ask for the $1,500 back in this situation. It’s too much to put on a grieving family struggling to pay the final expenses.

    It sounds like another fundraiser may not be feasible, but are there other things you could do to support the family of the preemie?

    I think doing something other than cash donation may be the best option in this scenario. Things like organizing a meal train and possible leave donations if the employee is in danger of exhausting paid leave (not sure if this is an option everywhere, but where I work, we can donate vacation time to people who have exhausted their leave). Even a day’s worth of leave would help.

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      Why do people keep saying this? It’s really frustrating, as someone who is grieving, to hear other people say that people like me couldn’t handle hearing such situations. One of the things that gave me comfort was hearing about the charity work my late mother performed and I would feel terrible if I heard that there was more to be done but it was being held up because no one wanted to tell me about it.

      Reply
        1. Cass

          Right. But you have no way of knowing unless and until someone reaches out. It will be uncomfortable, but I think that they should attempt to send the money in the right direction. I liked someone’s suggestion that splitting the money might be an option… Regardless, someone needs to reach out to former manager’s family and let them know.

          Reply
        2. Purplesaurus

          No, but the point is that not all people are going to react to things in the same way. It’s useful to know people can still be rational and helpful during their sorrow. A lot of people might even welcome something like this as a way to distract them from their grief.

          Reply
        3. CatCat

          Right. It’s a fair perspective to err on the side that the grieving family will be totally comfortable with this and even welcome it.

          It is also a fair perspective to err on the other side. That’s all I am saying. That’s why other people keep offering alternatives to asking the family of the deceased for money.

          Reply
          1. Jesmlet

            The question is how does OP choose which side to err on. And for that, I have no objective answer but it is useful to hear Mike’s perspective as a counterpoint to others.

            Reply
            1. Chriama

              Personally, I err on the side of helping out the family with the premature baby. If we’re talking “least harm done” then the grieving family has the opportunity to say they don’t have the money anymore or they’ll need some time to get it together or something else. The worst that happens by OP asking is they get emotionally upset. But the family with the premature baby is enduring mounting medical bills and if it’s possible to help them and risk upsetting (but not financially harming) the other family then I say it’s worth asking about.

              Reply
      1. The Strand

        First Mike C., I am really sorry to hear about your sudden and recent loss.

        I think not a few people would feel particularly bad in similar circumstances, if the charitable cause involved a child, such as a NICU baby or a kid trying to beat leukemia. Kids have a lot less control and experience to help them cope with life.

        There is nothing I can do to help the people I’ve lost, except to try and prevent untimely deaths (from things like PTSD, heart disease), and keep their memory alive. The people I’ve lost recently were adults who died way too young, but they still got to live adult lives with decisions, free will, impact. And like you mentioned – knowing what an impact your loved one had on the world – it’s very comforting, and it’s a comfort denied to parents in this situation (and similaarly to those experiencing stillbirth, miscarriage).

        One of the most powerful conversations I had was with a doctor colleague who deals with NICU babies every day. If it’s traumatizing for the doctor, if the level of helplessness is that high even among the experts, you can imagine what it’s like for the family. I would genuinely want to give my money to the child’s family, because it would bring some light and hope into their sorrow. Frankly, if there was a way to contribute to GoFundMe now, I’d do it.

        Reply
  28. Susan

    I would suggest waiting until the funeral is over a little time has passed and then approach the family member you have been in contact with. I am assume someone has reached out to HR regarding life insurance, or even to pass along the details of the funeral etc… I would suggest a phone call and start off with telling them again how shocked and saddened the team was to lose their coworker, or how much you miss them, something along those lines and then say “I hate to even bring this up, but there was a project that she was working on that Brenda was quite passionate about. She was raising donations to help Lisa and Mark with the expenses of caring for their daughter who was born prematurely. She had managed to raise over $1,500 for the family, which is more than we had ever hoped for. Because she felt so passionate about this and really want to help, I wanted to see if we could still make the donation. Of course because the money was deposited into Brenda’s personal bank about and she was to write a check from all of us, we are not sure if making the donation would still be possible. If it is not, we completely understand, but Brenda was so kind-hearted and felt so great about wanting to help this family, I felt like I should at least reach out and let you know” something along those lines… my line of thinking is that if this person worked so hard to get donations and was to be the person responsible, then I would think that she would have wanted to ensure that the money made it to the intended family. Of course, it might not be possible to get the money back, it is such a touchy situation… good luck with everything and I am sorry for your loss.

    Reply
  29. Summerisle

    What a terrible situation for everyone involved; I’m very sorry, OP.
    If it’s an option for the company (or perhaps the company’s owners) to send $1500 to the family of the premature baby and leave the original donation with the grieving family, I think that would be by far the best course of action and help both families in need.
    If that’s not an option, the idea some here have suggested of splitting the donation seems like a good way around it and an easier way of broaching the subject with the family.

    Reply
  30. LBK

    Oof. Is there someone you’ve been in contact with about the deceased employee? My experience is that in shocking deaths like this there’s usually an extended family member or close friend designated to deal with all of the logistical stuff so that the immediate family isn’t burdened with it. It’s possible you could reach out to that person and then they can broach the subject to whomever would have access to the account; usually part of their “job” is having uncomfortable discussions with the family regarding what they want to do about certain painful but necessary decisions, so this could fall under that. It would be easier coming from the appointed “awkward conversation haver” than from someone the family might not know or trust as well.

    Reply
    1. LBK

      Also, is there any chance the family knew about this? If she was married it seems there’s a pretty good chance she would’ve mentioned dropping a $1500 check into her account to her spouse.

      Reply
      1. Martin Crane

        And if she didn’t mention it and spouse has seen the bank statement, spouse may be wondering where the heck that deposit came from.

        Reply
  31. Susan

    Also, I was thinking that it would really be great if the company would donate the money to the family due to the situation. Maybe someone can go to the owner or president and share the details with them and see if the company would just donate on behalf of the company.

    Reply
      1. fposte

        I’d be fine with it if I were the deceased and my family was strapped. It’s a freak situation; you get through those with the best possible kindness.

        Reply
  32. Mike C.

    Look, I’ve been going through a similar situation (my mother died suddenly three weeks ago) recently and the thing is while I’m grieving, I’m still a rational person who can be told about things like this. I don’t want to speak for everyone and everyone’s experience is going to be no to be different, but people who are grieving are not always fragile little things that can be told about a complicated situation. At most, I’d want to see the spreadsheet, but you’d get a check cut right away and I wouldn’t think anything of it.

    Look, be kind, be compassionate, bring dinner over but you can have this conversation without feeling like you’re a terrible human being that only thinks about money. The charity was a compassionate act and the last thing the deceased would want is for the money to be held up or diverted.

    Reply
    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

      Having lost folks suddenly too, absolutely. Like, it’s unimaginably rough and you break down weeping at odd times and you feel like you’re piloting a flesh robot through life, but you can still deal with stuff. My reaction would be “Oh, god, yes, let’s deal with that, I had no idea.”

      Reply
    2. fposte

      I agree with you on the emotional component, especially since it’s been two months now. My concern is 1) asking the family who desperately needs money to cough up money they didn’t know somebody else was counting on and 2) the lurking possibility that the estate doesn’t have $1500 money above expenses.

      Reply
      1. Whats In A Name

        I guess what I keep coming back to is that they aren’t coughing up their own money, they are coughing up the collection of other people’s money. Which might sound callous but I think reasonable people, especially those grieving, want to do the right thing by the person they’ve lost.

        Reply
    3. animaniactoo

      I’m sorry for your loss. I’m not sure if you’d appreciate a hug but if you would there’s one here for you.

      Reply
    4. Mustache Cat

      Mike, I’m really sorry to hear that.

      Also, I might normally agree with you but I think it’s complicated by the fact that the grieving family is also asking for money.

      Reply
        1. KellyK

          That does make it a lot harder. I think you still ask, but you say you understand that they’re strapped, and if they don’t have it, they don’t have it. (I’d like to think that if I were in that position and the money had already been eaten up by funeral or medical expenses, I would pay the couple with the premature baby back in small amounts as I could.)

          Reply
          1. Mike C.

            I think this is pretty reasonable. I guess what irritated me a bit was this feeling that those who are grieving should be put in some sort of bubble or something.

            Reply
    5. Portia

      I lost my mother recently too, and I completely agree with Mike. For one thing, in the weeks and months after a death, you are dealing with tons of paperwork and logistical stuff. Mortgages, insurance, bills, canceling all services, etc. It’s not as though this is the first logistical request this family is dealing with, and I wanted to know everything up front so my sister and I could figure out what needed to be done. I do think the communication needs to happen sooner rather than later, since the family probably has no idea those funds were earmarked, and that money could be gone quickly.

      Along those lines, I’d suggest a message that doesn’t directly ask for the money back, but something that just informs them of the situation. Begin by expressing further condolences, ask if there is anything the family needs (that you can reasonably offer: like meals, transportation, etc), and then tell them what happened. Be clear that it’s okay if they “can’t locate the money” (code for “have already unknowingly spent the money”). And I like the idea of splitting the donation between the two families.

      Reply
    6. super anon

      As someone who lost their parent, I agree. I think it’s almost insulting that way that people seem to believe that grieving for a loved one makes you incapable of being rational and logical, and suddenly only capable of being handled with kid gloves. I didn’t suddenly become a fragile flower incapable of dealing with hard things and complicated situations. If anything, it something I would need to know about while planning my loved one’s affairs and it’s better to know earlier rather than later when the estate has been disbursed, etc.

      Yes, I was inexorably sad. Yes, there was a lot to deal with. But if this had happened to my loved one, I would want to know about the situation. Especially as it was something that my loved one had planned on, and had wanted to do. I would move heaven and earth to get something done that it was clear my loved one had wanted to do.

      I don’t really see the trouble in this letter, nor why there is so much hand wringing in the comments. Death is difficult, and the conversation will probably be awkward. Go into it with tact and be compassionate and kind, and ask for what you want or need to get done. If you don’t do it, no one will know, and the situation will never resolve it self. If at the point it doesn’t work/the family can’t financially distribute the funds, then start to look at the other options in the thread like the company donating the money, etc. But I don’t see why it’s necessary to start there first, when you should at least have the courtesy to tell the family about the situation and give them the chance to decide how to deal with it.

      There’s a lot to be said for having the bravery to be straight forward and ask for what you need, even in the face of awkward and difficult situations.

      Reply
      1. irritable vowel

        I completely agree, having lost a parent-in-law. There is so much logistical stuff to deal with after a death that this is just going to be one more thing on a long list, not some huge faux pas.

        I also think that the wishes of the people who donated the money for the premature baby should be taken into account in some way. If I had contributed something towards my coworker’s medical expenses for his premature baby and then was told months later “yeah, because Susan died we ended up not giving the money to Dan and his wife for their baby – we just let Susan’s family keep it because it was too awkward”… I would think my contribution had been mishandled, for sure.

        Reply
      2. Venus Supreme

        My first reaction to the letter, honestly, included a lot of hand-wringing. My mother-in-law died very suddenly and tragically last year and when I shared this letter with my partner and asked his input, he said “the money belongs to the baby, the end.” I jumped to the conclusion he’d side with the manager’s family BECAUSE of his past history, but I was put in my place. He helped me see that grieving bears a lot of emotional weight and the people less-affected by death shouldn’t tiptoe around the immediate family.

        Reply
    7. Trillian

      Agreed. My mother died last year. Doing things the way she would have wanted them done was important to us — and she would have wanted her obligations fulfilled and her debts paid.

      Also — how do I say this? The admin in the aftermath was a pain in the posterior, but carried no burden of emotional labour. What was intolerable in the immediate time after was any expenditure of emotional energy. I would have received a straight-forward request as something to tidy up as my mother would have wished. I would not have received well any kind of evasive or overly sensitive approach that obliged me to figure out what someone wanted or to make them feel comfortable.

      Reply
  33. lurking and such today

    What a horrible predicament for everyone involved! Although as I am reading through the comments I wonder: does the amount of what was raised $1,500 is part of people’s reasoning in what should be done? What if the amount was $5,000 or even $10,000? What if this was a large community group “Springfield Rice Sculptors Meetup” and not associated with a company? Also, what about a person’s individual contribution – what if a junior employee who is good friends with the newborn’s dad budgeted and gave $150 but would never give that kind of $ toward a bereavement fund? This has so many layers and I have no concrete answers. My sincere sympathies for all involved.

    Reply
    1. Jadelyn

      I like the point about individual contributions – I have to admit, I’m human and the amount I’d be willing to squeeze my already-limited budget and do without things for a bit to fund a donation would depend heavily on who it’s going to and the situation. In the past I’ve managed to pull together a total of $200 for a close friend who lost his job and his wife got very sick at the same time so they were struggling just to keep the lights on and hold on to their home for them and their kids, and I’ve sent my brother $100-250 to help with various immediate needs from time to time. But those put considerable strain on my finances, and it was a choice because I wanted to help my loved ones and dear friends who’ve been there for me for years and years.

      For a coworker I might not be particularly close with, I wouldn’t be willing to stretch my budget near to the breaking point like that – in that situation, “digging deep” would be like $50 rather than tossing $20 in the pot. I’d be pretty upset if I’d made a choice to put my financial stability at risk for a colleague I was very close with, like my manager who has been a wonderful mentor to me both personally and professionally, and that money ended up going to the family of a coworker I rarely spoke to. While I sympathize with the less-close coworker’s family, I’d still be frustrated that I strained my budget to give money to a friend and it wound up going to someone else, because I definitely couldn’t do another big donation to make sure my friend got the support I wanted to give them.

      Reply
  34. justsomeone

    Would office donors be willing to split the $ between the two families? Somehow, approach the grieving spouse and gently explain that the office had raised $1500 for BABYMAN, and MANAGER was handling that money. In light of the situation, the office has elected to split the funds, so MANAGER’s family can keep half, but you do please need the other half for the BABYMAN.

    It’s not amazing, but it solves the problem of needing to take the money completely away from both parties, and will lessen the sting of being asked for money at a time like this.

    Reply
  35. Kimberly

    I’m going to assume that the office would also be taking up a donation for the manager’s funeral. I would have the most diplomatic person tell the executor or maybe the person in charge of the fundraiser for the manager’s funeral about the money and to consider that a donation to support that family. Then pass the hat for the premature infant again.

    In the future – don’t deposit the money into an individual’s account go buy a money order/cashier’s check instead. The small fee is worth not having personal money and donations mix. We started this policy after a similar chain of events. 2 students were killed in a domestic violence murder/suicide. We passed the envelope to help pay for the funerals. The teacher that had the envelope, forgot to turn it into the office on a day she stayed after the office closed. It was a Friday, so she took it home for safekeeping – and passed away of a heart attack that weekend. In this case her daughter a teacher at another school gathered all the graded papers/papers to be graded and other student paperwork her mom took home to work on and found the envelope, so it was returned without us having to ask.

    Reply
    1. Lola

      OP had mentioned that they can’t afford to make that kind of collection again; so you would be effectively taking money away from the indented recipient for another.

      This is a prime example for why these kind of collections should go through the company’s accountant or bookkeeper. That person can keep a record of the donations as well as having access to the COMPANY account should anything happen to an individual in charge.

      Reply
    2. Starbuck

      “I’m going to assume that the office would also be taking up a donation for the manager’s funeral.”

      I’m curious, is this something that is often done for non-family members? Even for a coworker who I knew well and liked, I’m not sure how compelled I’d feel to donate money just for a funeral. I (fortunately) do not have much experience with this so I’ve no clue what the norm is.

      It’s a shame that the family also has to worry about paying the deceased’s medical bills- other than the spouse (and that varies by state, I think?) as far as I know no one is legally obligated to pay that debt, right?

      Reply
      1. Natalie

        The estate has to pay any remaining medical bills, with some additional complications for surviving spouses in some states.

        Passing the hat for funeral expenses seems to be common in some areas/communities and uncommon in others. In my experience it’s really common in areas that had a significant blue collar identity or farming areas. YMMV

        Reply
        1. Drea

          This can also be common in certain urban areas, especially for young people who die unexpectedly. Generally people do not have life insurance for their children or young adult children, and it can be devasatsting financially for just the bare minimum.

          Reply
  36. Jessesgirl72

    This gets so tricky.

    When you take up a charitable collection, if the money doesn’t go to the cause specified, that is a problem- morally and legally.

    The coworkers have the proof about the money collected, etc, but it would be so difficult to present it to the woman’s grieving family.

    The family with the NICU bills to pay, however, still needs the money that was intended for them.

    So I like the suggestion of asking the business owner if they could make up the money. After that- if that doesn’t work, I’d suggest contacting the woman’s family and laying it out, as gently as you can, and ask if there is a way you can get the deposited money.

    If they can’t or won’t, though, I’d probably just let it go. And for the next collection, just keep it locked in an office drawer and hand the family cash.

    Reply
    1. lurking and such today

      “When you take up a charitable collection, if the money doesn’t go to the cause specified, that is a problem- morally and legally. ”

      IANAL so I will just comment on the moral part – I agree. My charitable contributions are not necessarily equal. I may give $100 to an autism charity or JDRF but only give $5 to a wide variety of causes in the workplace. And that’s my prerogative. I admit, in this situation I would have given more to the new baby fund than the bereavement fund of this coworker. I am conflicted in that I don’t know if I like the idea of my company (or colleagues) deciding the $ should go to the bereavement and not the baby. If I was the business owner I would give the $1500 and talk with my accountant about writing it off (IAANAA – I am also not an accountant)

      Reply
  37. Mustache Cat

    I think some of the commenters here are putting an optimistic shine on it. I don’t think there’s a good and painless way to ask for any amount of money back.

    The problem with the idea of splitting the funds is that you would still have to ask for some of the money back. (Or worse–they misinterpret you and are confidently expecting the $750 you just “promised” them to arrive any minute).

    By no means hand them any papers, emails, spreadsheets–the family likely is looking at far too many of them from the hospital and the funeral home. I also don’t think much about asking for money as part of a larger conversation–I don’t know, maybe you have someone who can pull it off, but that would just feel incredibly contrived in my opinion. It’s likely to come off as a transparent ploy, unfortunately.

    Putting the situation in front of the family and asking them for help coming to a decision might be a great approach in a situation that didn’t involve a recent death. In this case, you would only be putting unnecessary emotional labor on the grieving family in order to avoid having to yourself make a hard decision or have a hard conversation, which I can only call selfish.

    I think you have to let the money go. I’m sorry. If you want to, or if you think it would bring comfort to the family, you can let them know that the employee had been holding temporary charitable funds from coworkers, which you would like them to keep (I would say, word this carefully so as to avoid the misinterpretation I laid out above). But otherwise, put your energies into giving as much non-monetary charity to the family with the premature baby as you can. (I’m taking you at your word that neither your coworkers nor your company can afford any more donations). Suggestions elsewhere in this thread to donate sick leave, mow lawns, volunteer to look over medical bills, cook meals, etc etc etc are all great.

    Good luck!

    Reply
    1. Manders

      Yes, this is my instinct on this too. I would contact the family to let them know about the bank account, though, so they don’t stumble across it 3 months from now and have to deal with figuring out why their relative had a mystery extra account with $1,500 in it and no mention of it in their will.

      I’m finding myself agreeing with other commenters who are suggesting that the company should take the money that would have been the manager’s salary for the next few weeks and donate that to the family with the baby. I don’t see a downside to that–unless this is the kind of business that has strict billable hours and if the manager didn’t work those weeks the money doesn’t exist.

      Reply
    2. Mustache Cat

      Oh jeez, fposte just pointed out that it’s been two months since the death.

      I have no idea now how that changes my advice but I feel like it would have to! Sorry.

      Reply
  38. HisGirlFriday

    My family just lost my dad about a month ago, and even in the midst of all of that, I would have wanted someone to reach out to me (not my mom) and say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry, I know this is a bad time but your dad had collected the money for a work charity thing and was going to write the check from his account. Can you help?’

    Yes, it would have been one more Thing to deal with, but I know my father would have wanted to honor that commitment, and he would not have wanted money collected on someone else’s behalf to go to him.

    I think if you can find out the name/contact information of someone else in the family and you can reach out to them very subtly and gently and kindly, they will be happy to make things right.

    Reply
    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

      And the list of Things to Deal With is nearly endless. This is just one more Thing. At some point, even in deep grief, the next of kin end up keeping on keeping on, because someone’s got to attend to stuff.

      Reply
      1. FDCA In Canada

        Yes, exactly. There is an unending list of things that need to be done after someone dies–it really just goes on and on and on–and this is exactly the kind of thing that gets put onto the list to be dealt with. Even terrible, sudden, shocking grief will give way to “okay well things are ungodly awful but we still need to eat and see the lawyer today.”

        Reply
    2. Anon today...and tomorrow

      I second this -> I think if you can find out the name/contact information of someone else in the family and you can reach out to them very subtly and gently and kindly, they will be happy to make things right.

      My grandfather was blind and used cassette tapes to communicate with pen-pals all over the globe. One of his hobbies was rare music and he connected with a lot of people that way. The day of his funeral a man approached my mother and I and asked about a tape that he’d sent right before my grandfather’s passing. It was a rare recording that he’d loaned to my grandfather to listen to and make a copy of. He wanted to know if he could have it back. There was a quick search of his belongings at home but nothing turned up. The man was super uncomfortable but he asked if anyone had checked the tape player that had been included in the casket. My mom asked the funeral home to check the player before they closed the casket. It was there! The man was so apologetic that he was focused on that when we’d just lost a loved one, but we knew that my grandfather would have been so upset if he’d gone to the literal grave with that recording.

      Reply
    3. Venus Supreme

      Yes. This is very different than “Jane borrowed my purse for an event… can I have it back now?” (Which is what my family dealt with when we had a sudden death)

      Reply
    4. sheepla

      I agree. If I lost my spouse, parent, whatever and someone contacted me about this, I would actually be grateful they let me know sooner rather than later.

      Reply
  39. Anon today...and tomorrow

    “Our question is how we can tactfully ask them to give us the money so we can donate it to our coworker who had the premature baby as intended? We don’t work for a large company with the funds for another check, it’s a small business. Many people here dug deep to give a donation and no one can really afford to do it again. We don’t want to upset or hurt her family but that money wasn’t hers. None of us want to offend her family because they are struggling too.”

    I read the letter several times and the part that stands out to me is this last paragraph. It doesn’t seem like the company is large enough that they’d be willing/able to replace the money sitting in the deceased managers account.
    It also seems that this is money that you’re not willing to write off based on the “but that money wasn’t hers”. If this is as important to you as it seems, I’d suggest gathering the proof of donations (the spreadsheet with the sign offs) and any emails that indicate that the manager was going to write the check and approach the family with an explanation of what happened. Acknowledge that you know this is a horrible situation but that you want the money to go to it’s intended recipient. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    Reply
  40. bunniferous

    Well, we can certainly all learn from this going forward not to comingle funds….but in the short term: If this had happened first your folks would have certainly donated to help with funeral expenses. Also, the fact is that when someone dies, those funds are not immediately available normally-and the needs a preemie baby have are immediate and ongoing.

    I think what you do is gather the office staff and offer them the option to let the money previously collected go to the bereaved family.Then, figure out an appropriate way to do some additional fundraising for the preemie baby. If that is doing a gofundme and sharing that with family and friends of co-workers, or doing a bake sale or car wash, or otherwise some other kind of fundraiser, do that. That way no one has to disturb the grieving.

    If fundraising is not in the cards, or people object, then truly halfsies is the way to go-but then someone is going to HAVE to approach someone on the bereaved side. Heck, call the funeral home and pick their brains. They may have a suggestion on someone to approach the family.

    In any case, this is a hard, hard thing. It is not just about the money, but about the fact that this family needs help too.

    Reply
    1. Jessesgirl72

      I don’t think it’s really a necessary given that they’d have donated for the funeral expenses, or donated as much.

      It seems the trend these days is to set up a gofundme when someone dies, even if there is a big insurance check coming that would cover the expenses, and then some.

      OTOH, a baby in the NICU easily can end up costing $1M+ in bills, and most people don’t have the insurance that would cover that- and the family doesn’t have a choice in the matter, where after a certain amount, funeral expenses are largely a matter of the choices you make…

      So I might donate towards flowers or something for a funeral, but not anywhere close to what I’d donate for the preemie.

      Reply
      1. Government Worker

        I don’t think it’s necessarily true that most insurance won’t cover the medical bills, especially now that the ACA has gotten rid of benefit caps. Every employer-sponsored plan I’ve had would have covered it in full, after deductibles, if the providers were in-network (and since the family presumably chose the hospital where the baby was delivered, it can be assumed to be in-network). I had a baby in the NICU for a much shorter time and then re-hospitalized shortly after birth, and everything was covered with no trouble. We had a high deductible plan and had to pay the first $4k or something like that in expenses out of our HSA, but we’d known going in that we’d hit that with the birth no matter what and planned accordingly.

        And states have free Early Intervention programs that provide home-based services like weekly physical therapy in the first three years for babies and young children who need them. The quality varies a lot depending on where you are, but good friends who had a preemie born 15 weeks early have received wonderful services for their now-two-year-old, and other friends with kids with more mild developmental challenges in a different state have had good experiences, too.

        Of course they may have had crappy insurance, and there will likely be other expenses because you can’t put a preemie into a regular daycare for a while because they’re often considered immunocompromised. It’s always helpful to have extra money in times of stress so the collection would surely be put to good use, but it may not be the financial disaster that everyone on this thread is assuming.

        Reply
  41. Mildred Lathbury

    If the employee commingled the funds within her individual or joint accounts, that money is likely gone. Did you ever have an indication she might have set up a specific account to hold these funds?
    You could reach out and frame it this way, “Jane was such a great person. We all feel terrible that her generous intentions for a collection she initiated here may not be realized. Please let us know if you would like to know more of the details.” If you they don’t respond, you have your answer.

    Reply
  42. The Tin Man

    Oh my goodness, this is heartbreaking. I cannot possibly think of a way to approach the family about this, at least in any sort of short timeframe.

    I know if it were just my money I would consider it a donation to the grieving family and to help with funeral expenses instead – Hopefully too the manager who died had enough in assets that the money is not just swallowed up to pay debts owed, otherwise this could be even more complicated and make it seem like the family is trying to hide assets from the debtors of the deceased.

    What makes this hard is the line that “Many people here dug deep to give a donation and no one can really afford to do it again”. As callous as it feels to say, the family with the premature baby are still with you and maybe you can find other ways to help them?

    If, for whatever reason, you decide the family really needs the money do you have access to the confidential spreadsheet as a record of exactly how much was given? All I can possibly think of is to, after some time, bring it up as something to do for the manager by saying something like “Hello, this is Fergus from Teapots, Inc. I am so sorry for your loss and we miss Jane so much here at the office. She really made this a better place to be. As you know, she was also such a thoughtful person. Because of that, she had taken charge of a fundraiser we had here for a our coworker Ned who is struggling with medical expenses due to the premature birth of his child. She took the donations and was going to write them a check for the amount everyone contributed but unfortunately the crash happened before she could. I know you must be going through an unimaginably difficult time, but when you are ready to go through her finances could you possibly find what was deposited to be given to Ned’s family? To help identify the deposits we do have a record of what everyone here donated.”

    Even writing that feels disingenuous due to the family’s struggles with medical and funeral expenses (and the family with the primi has their child, this family lost someone). People grieve differently and that could manifest in suspicion if the family thinks you are trying profit from the manager’s death even if that doesn’t make much sense so TREAD SO VERY CAREFULLY if you take this approach.

    With all that said, the manager’s family’s struggles with paying for funeral expenses are a good reminder that people should at least have a small life insurance policy that covers funeral expenses even if they wouldn’t otherwise need one.

    Reply
  43. Penelope Pitstop

    Apologies if this has been said already:

    I would not look to collect the money back from a grieving family. It was generously donated to a family who needed it and now there is another grieving family who will make good use of it and will make good use of it. Trying to collect and re-route it to the originally-intended recipient will be needlessly painful to the grieving.

    Some organizations have a discretionary fund of goodwill money and/or will match funds for things like this – maybe you can explain to HR what happened and the company can pool some money for the family with the premature baby?

    Maybe post-funeral when work affairs are sorted for the grieving family, there can be a notification from the team / company that the manager was coordinating a donation to another coworker’s family at the time of his/her death and that the coworkers left the money with the family to honor him/her? That is not the right wording, but the point is–it may provide a bit of comfort to the grieving family to know that the manager/team was helping someone a coworker at time of death. Sometimes spouses/families don’t have clear line of sight to someone’s work life and seeing a) they were coordinating resources to help others in need and b) that spirit was returned in kind when the manager’s family needed it may afford the family some measure of peace.

    Also–fwiw–the family of the premature baby, if they were to know or find out about the circumstances, might want that money to remain where it is. The thought will be appreciated, but if it were me, I would definitely not feel I had a claim to that money.

    Reply
    1. CBH

      +1 Penelope Pitsop

      Both families are grieving. This is a difficult situation, but both families deserve support. Some round about suggestions….

      Let the deceased coworkers family keep the funds. Since both families could use some support and money is tight perhaps cook some meals for both families so that is one less thing to worry about. Maybe take a second donation later in the year when money is not so tight and give it to the premature baby family. I’m sure they will still be paying off bills in the months to come. I agree with what Penelope Pitstop said that the baby family might want the money to remain where it is. If it comes up with the deceased coworkers family one can explain the situation. I’m sure when going over her estate (if money is tight since they need money to help pay for the burial) they will notice the additional funds. Tell them the office decided to just donate it to here family during their time of need.

      Can this company get the community involved to help both families. Can they collect donations from the community and other local businesses? Maybe put a post on their website soliciting donations for both families.

      Reply
    2. Jadelyn

      “It was generously donated to a family who needed it and now there is another grieving family who will make good use of it”

      Except that, on an individual level, people gave to a specific cause, a specific person, and they might not have donated as much (or they might’ve donated more; who knows?) to a fund for the manager’s family. It’s not like they had a general office pot for “any colleagues whose families are in a bad spot”, it was specifically “help support Wakeen and his family”, so you can’t just swap it out and pretend like it’s same difference so long as it’s going to someone in need. If my manager and mentor were in the hospital, I’d pull together a few hundred, even though it would strain my finances precariously, because it’s someone I know well who has done a lot for me and who I care about a lot. If one of the line staff in a department I have relatively little contact with were in the hospital, I’d put in probably $50, no more than $100, because in that situation I have compassion for someone who’s struggling but little personal connection to the cause. Would it be fair to just say to me, “*shrug* it’s still going to someone in need, so it’s fine!” even though now my manager is without the major financial support I had intended to give, and I’m still out that big amount of money and so I’m not in a position to give *anything* to the person I’m close with?

      Reply
  44. Meg Murry

    I am not a lawyer or accountant, but I’ve been through some tricky finanacial situations with family members recently.

    The other problem is that even though the money didn’t technically belong to the manager, it sounds like the employees don’t have any records about it (other than a spreadsheet). If other people or companies have a legal claim to the manager’s money (for instance, if there was outstanding medical debt, credit card debt, etc), those companies will be in line ahead of these employees, and it’s not as simple as the family members of the deceased being able to cut the employees a check.

    If there is a surviving spouse, and the employee deposited the money into a joint checking account, its possible that that spouse might still have access to the bank account, and perhaps a record of cash or check deposits going into that bank that matched the employee’s spreadsheet would be enough to show this is true and in good faith. I know when my father passed away, my mother still had access to all their joint bank accounts – none were cut off from her. But if there isn’t a spouse, things will almost definitely be tied up in escrow and the family probably can’t get to that bank account even if there are meticulous records about this collection.

    The only way I think you might be able to approach the family is if there is someone on the staff that was an actual outside-of-work friend with the manager and their spouse. And even then, I don’t think it would be appropriate to ask for the money back, but only to let them know the circumstances (manager had been collecting the money the co-workers donated to the family in need, people already gave everything they could) so that the family understands why the co-workers aren’t donating to the funeral expenses fund, etc – because they kind of already did donate to this family once.

    The only other thing I wonder is – are they 100% sure the manager already deposited the money in the bank? Is there any chance the manager still had a big envelope of cash in the car with them during the accident or that it might still be locked in the manager’s desk drawers at work? If it was in the car, chances are that money was destroyed in the accident. But I’d ask HR/upper management if they could search the manager’s office to make sure there isn’t an envelope of money still there.

    Reply
    1. CM

      Agreed, I think the compassionate and ethical aspects of this have been well-covered in other comments, but this could be a tricky situation legally. There are rules about how an estate’s assets can be distributed. Unless the manager kept the money in a separate account or otherwise clearly marked it as being held temporarily on behalf of the office, it may be tough to recover the money even if the executor would like to give it back. I would gather up all the documentation you can about who gave and in what amounts, including anything like a group email that includes the purpose of the donation or especially an email or note from the manager saying that she had the money and was going to write a check for the other coworker. Then, when reaching out to the executor, you can say that if it helps for administrative purposes, you can provide records of the donations and the intent of the deceased to write a check to the coworker. (So it doesn’t look like you’re making a legal demand for the money upfront; instead, you’re helping out the executor by being able to provide documentation if needed.)

      Reply
  45. Jessen

    I would gather all the evidence you can that this was a donation that she was collecting for someone else, for legal reasons. Not because you intend to sue the family, but so they can present it to the court as money that shouldn’t be part of the estate – or at least as a valid debt.

    Reply
    1. Christian Troy

      I agree with you. I was under the impression that if money is collected for a purpose and it’s not used for that purpose, it can be consider fraud. I think whether it’s easy or not, someone has to circle back to the manager’s family and explain the situation.

      Reply
      1. Jessesgirl72

        This is what I’ve been led to believe too.

        Our church takes up collections for various charities- a different one every month. One of the charities closed and returned the money we had just sent.

        We had to go through all kinds of CYA hoops before we could give the money to another charity.

        This is why for a lot of collections, there’s a * somewhere, that leads to a waiver saying that in extenuating circumstances, or they collect more than the amount needed for X, the money/excess will instead go to Y. (With Y oftentimes being anything at their discretion)

        It would be really paranoid and strange to put one of those clauses in an office coworker collection, though!

        Reply
        1. Chinook

          We went through this with our parish priest recently who openly said that it is Catholic Canon Law that, if money/an item is donated for use for Reason A (which in our case was a new sign) and can’t be used for A, then it must be returned to the donator and not used for Reason B (which was to pay the Church mortgage) . The donator is free to redonate it to Reason B but cannot be required to do so (which is what our group decided to do).

          As awkward as that initial conversation was for our priest (poor guy majorly underestimated the cost of installing a sign in Canada), it was actually quite nice to see how transparent the process really is.

          Reply
    2. KellyK

      Definitely agree. I don’t think the spreadsheets should be part of the initial conversation, but if you talk to the family and their answer is, “We’d love to help you, but that’s up to the court,” you can certainly provide them with that info.

      Reply
  46. Employment Lawyer

    $1500 is simultaneously a lot of money, and not all that much money.

    That opens up a good solution: I would approach the CEO / owner and put this on them. If they have any sense they will see that this could cause problems which will cost far more than $1500. The smart thing for company morale would be for the company to step up and pay the $1500 to the preemie family, and let the death family keep the other $1500. Then the company looks like the good guy.

    Reply
    1. Manders

      You make a really important point. $1500 is not much for a company to pay to maintain employee morale. The employees dug deep to make this donation, but the company hasn’t put anything forward, and if the staff then have to come up with more money out of a sense of obligation it could cause a whole lot of resentment.

      Reply
    2. Bellatrix

      Aaargh, this is just such a terrible situation.

      Now the letter says that the company just doesn’t have the $ 1500. But like you, without doubting the LW, I think most companies would have the $1500 if the water broke or a company laptop was lost. And this seems to be a similar emergency. Plus, the deceased worker is no longer on the payroll. This is probably one or two of her paychecks.

      It just seems that if it’s at all possible, the company covering it is not only the compassionate, but the financially sound choice.

      Reply
  47. Nanc

    I have to say I would just consider the money gone. You mentioned it was hard for some folks to donate the first time so another fundraising request, even via something like GoFundMe may not raise the same amount.

    What about looking to other sources of support? The family with the premie is likely overwhelmed with details, including day-to-day life. What can you do to help? Contact agencies? Run errands? Ask for corporate donations? If a company is willing to donate diapers or something like that it might be worth going through an application process. You could approach the family and ask if they’d like you to look into a list of things you all brainstorm. What about a meal delivery service like Blue Apron or similar? They may have a community service department and be willing to donate meals. Would a local house cleaning service donate a few months of weekly cleaning? Does the hospital have some sort of social services department who can offer some guidance?

    It sounds like you have a very generous workplace and if you all can’t afford actual cash, the gift of your time to see what you can drum up in terms of support may be the way to go.

    Good luck, and please let us know what happens.

    Reply
  48. Miss Elaine E.

    I think the only way to approach the grieving family is to say something on the order of, “We’re so sorry for your loss. (He/she) was such a giving person, who was in fact collected $1,500 from the staff and was about to write a check to help Baby X, who was born prematurely. We’re so sorry to bring it up but would it be possible to forward half of those funds to Baby X’s family to honor (his/her) memory? Please accept the remainder as a tribute from (his/her coworkers)…”

    Reply
  49. legalchef

    Someone may have said this already (in which case sorry for the repetition), but maybe you can kindly explain the situation and say that in light of everything, your colleagues would like to split the donation, and give half to the baby’s family and half here? This assumes that everyone who gave the original donation would agree to that, but perhaps that would soften the request a bit?

    Reply
  50. Ann Furthermore

    I really don’t think it’s reasonable to ask people to donate again, whether it’s money or other things. The OP said that everyone had already given what they could, so it’s not likely that they’ll be able to do so again.

    I have huge amounts of sympathy for everyone in this situation. It’s weird, awkward, awful, and tragic. But it’s likely that we can assume that the manager would not have wanted money meant for someone else to be bundled into her estate, or otherwise disappear and never reach the family it was intended for. I think it’s necessary to approach the family and let them know what the situation is.

    As someone who’s been through the death of a parent (which we all knew was coming), and also a sibling (which was very sudden and unexpected), I can say that neither I nor anyone in my immediate family would have been offended if someone had brought this to our attention; in fact, it would have been just the opposite. We would want to make sure that it was handled correctly, plus, all of us would have felt terrible had we found out later that we had included money in the estate that didn’t belong to us. Legally, yes the money is likely the property of the estate, but morally, that money belongs to and is intended for someone else.

    My recommendation is to approach the family and explain the situation, but wait a few days until the funeral has taken place. When someone dies, that’s the thing that needs to be focused on immediately: making arrangements, contacting family, letting people know when the service and/or visitation is, and so on. It’s overwhelming, even if you’ve got family supporting you and working with a funeral home.

    After the funeral happens (at least in my experience), you feel that the most immediate and pressing things have been handled, and you can pause, mentally regroup and focus on the more “business” end of things: settling the estate, paying outstanding debts, and so on. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with approaching the family at that time and explaining the situation.

    Reply
  51. Mrs. Psmith

    Regardless of what happens with the money, I think someone does need to tell the family about the original intent of the collection. Because what if the manager’s family starts going through the accounts and finds this strange bank account with $1,500+ in it, or sees a deposit on her regular account for that amount. Sure, some people may just see it move on, but it could cause confusion, misunderstandings along the lines of “was she hoarding money for some reason,” “was she doing side work,” and so on.

    Reply
    1. Jen Erik

      Also, and I don’t want to suggest there’s a right or wrong reaction – but I’d have been mortified if I found out later I’d accidentally spent money raised as a donation to cover a family member’s funeral. I’d feel a moral obligation to repay it.
      When my dad passed suddenly we were in a raw state, and kindness from the companies we were dealing with went a long way, but the financial stuff just had to be done. Genuinely, for us, it would have been best to find out something like this right away, so that we could take it into account.
      If they don’t want to repay it, that’s a different set of circumstances, and it’ s maybe gone for good, and if they’re too financially stretched to pay it back, perhaps some arrangement could be made so they could pay it back little at a time.
      But, for myself, I would want to be told, and told right away.
      And I think – because of the difficult circumstances where you’re approaching the family about this money – a second collection should be taken up towards the funeral expenses: even if it only raised a notional amount, it would be a kind gesture. (Though I would deal with the two separately.)

      Reply
  52. Alex

    I don’t know about others, but my bank scans checks and I can access “cancelled” checks by looking at my online account–meaning, I can have record of every check I wrote that was cashed, and I think also every check I cashed that someone wrote to me. So there should be record of these transactions in a way that whoever has access to the bank accounts can see.

    I think I would use the suggestions of above of offering 1/2 of the donation to the car crash victim’s family, but asking for the other 1/2 back in a non-pushy way.

    Like:

    Dear Family,

    We are devastated by Jane’s passing and our thoughts are with you during this difficult time. Jane was a well-loved and respected leader here at Teapots Inc., and she will be greatly missed.

    You may not know that the day of Jane’s accident, our office had been collecting for the family of another employee who has been experiencing a family emergency. Jane had taken the lead on this collection, and had deposited $1,500 into her account, which she was about to disperse to the family.

    In light of what has happened, we would like to donate half of this money to your family to go towards Jane’s final expenses. However, given that the family for whom the money was originally intended is still in great need, we unfortunately need to ask that the other have be returned to them. We realize that this is an extremely awkward situation to have to navigate during such a difficult time, and we understand there may be obstacles in accessing the money. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to make this easier.

    Sincerely with condolences,
    Most Senior Person in Company

    Reply
    1. Portia

      The problem with directly asking for the money to be returned, though, is that there’s a good chance it’s already gone. If it was just in the personal bank account, the family may have already used that money for funeral expenses and other debts. I think direct requests for the money, or sending documentation of the donations, as others have suggested, would put pressure on the family to come up with the funds out of their own pockets. That definitely doesn’t sound like a good outcome.

      Reply
  53. frequentreader-newcommenter

    What a horrible situation. Given the information in the OP’s letter, I’m going to assume:
    – It’s not an option for the small business to cover the original donation. When my parents had their small business, $1500 was considered a lot of money. There’s no way they could easily come up with that.
    – The coworkers want their hard-earned donations to go to their original intent: help the family with a baby in the NICU.
    – Asking the family to give up or split the donation is not an option. We’re not in their situation, and it’s unfair for us to make that assumption.

    I second being upfront and sensitive with the grieving family sooner rather than later. As someone else stated, you may want to go over the top and say you realize this is such a tragedy and the timing is terrible. Did the manager come up with the idea for the fundraiser? If so, you can tell them that she was such a caring individual that she organized a fundraiser that raised $1500 to help the family of a newborn that’s in the NICU. And, the day before the manager passed, she deposited the money in her account and planned to write a check to the family. Tell them the family’s baby is still in the hospital and could really use the family for mounting medical expenses. Make sure to have documentation/emails on hand.

    You never know, it might help the grieving family to know that their loved one was involved/managed this fundraiser the day before she passed, and they might not think twice to carry out her wishes and give you the money. I hope this helps!

    Reply
  54. Althea

    Frankly, if I was this person’s family, I would want to know about the situation. They may not have options (if the estate has a lot of debt, or if cash is tight until the estate settles) but if it was me, I would want to do whatever I could to help. And some solace might be available that despite a death in the family, some good gesture can happen. Talking with the family and asking if there is anything they are able to do is a good first step.

    If the family believes the money will be “eaten” by debt in the estate, it’s gone for good. If there will be money remaining, then I think the workplace should file a claim on the estate and try to get the money back. There is some possibility that the family is able to provide some or all of the money back themselves just by knowing about the situation. I’m not sure what the legal rules are about how spouse’s money enters the estate (or not).

    Either way, then go back to coworkers to explain which outcome has resulted from talking with the family. They may react differently to each one, after all.

    Reply
  55. TJuerg

    Banker in US here: Did the manager put a beneficiary on the account? Was it a personal account that she was the only titled signer? Or maybe was it a “donation fund” account (specific type of account with specific rules/regulations)? Those types of things matter and can help the situation potentially be resolved more quickly.

    Also, the husband/parent/child of the manager can potentially file a Claim of Heir Affidavit with the financial institution to get those funds. It essentially says I am the next of kin to this person and there is no one else who will try to claim these funds. Is there a non-immediate family you can reach out to and explain the situation? See if that family member can talk to the husband/parent/child to fill out the form and get the funds issued?

    I would suggest someone from the business reach out to the bank if they haven’t done so, they should have a compliance department that can help them resolve this with possibly little family involvement and heartache. They can at least advise the coworkers of the situation and offer guidance!

    Best of luck to you!

    Reply
  56. Ashley I think

    I think telling the family about the money is dependent on if anyone knows a family member previous to the employee’s death. If there is someone I would mention it with info about where the money should be sent. Maybe with dropping off work desk items? I would mention it sooner rather then later so it is on the family radar. I also think a go fund me page for the family with the new baby would be helpful to maybe raise some money for them now, and if the estate does pay the $1,500 later great.

    Reply
  57. Green Tea Pot

    Ooh, dear, this is a tough one.

    I hope someone with means steps forward and makes a donation to cover the loss of the $1000. A manager or business owner, perhaps?

    Recollecting from staff is the only other solution I can come up with. I know I’d give again, if I were in their place, but then I don’t know the circumstances.

    I would not ask the bereaved family. I just couldn’t.

    Reply
  58. Forrest

    Ok, first, I’m not sure why commenters are suggesting that the coworkers let the money go and raise more – the OP clearly says they can’t afford to do that.

    Second, I’m not clear how the OP was able to determine the financial state of the employee’s family. Opting for a fundraiser doesn’t automatically mean they can’t afford it.

    Third, and this is going to sound heartless, but if I donate money I would want it to go to what I donated for. No one here knows what each coworker’s relationship with the deceased was like and I don’t think it’s right to just assume they should give it up.

    OP, I would find the most empathetic coworker and ask them to reach out via phone call. Explain the situation and let it fall that way. If the family opts to not return, I don’t think there’s much else you can do.

    Reply
    1. KellyK

      I don’t think it’s heartless at all to want a donation to go to what you originally specified it for. This is definitely awkward and painful, but there’s nothing wrong with the coworkers who contributed asking for the money back. They have to understand that it might be gone, or that a court may decide that it’s still part of the estate and award it to a creditor, but as long as they’re compassionate, there’s nothing wrong with asking. It wasn’t the manager’s $1500.

      Reply
  59. Erin

    Consider the $1,500 that has already been raise a donation to the family of your coworker who was killed in the crash and take up a second collection for your coworker who had the premature baby. This is all so terrible – I’m sorry.

    Reply
  60. chris

    Why couldn’t you just attend the funeral, meet the widowed spouse, then wait 2-3 weeks, then two of you approach the widowed spouse with a gift (a small sum for their GoFundMe perhaps?), and a statement of condolences?

    Then explain the situation about the $1500. Then just in case you need to, you can show a document listing all the outgoing transactions from all the donors at the company totaling the full amount donated to the new mom with the premature baby?

    I’m sure that the widowed spouse would be happy to do the right thing and oblige to give the money once she gets access to it.

    Reply
  61. Just Answering

    Money is fungible.

    I don’t doubt that *someone* in your work will want to take up a collection for this manager’s family, right? And, you’d all dig deep again, because this manager’s family is also suffering?

    So, perhaps you leave that $1500 with the family and just send a note with a lovely card explaining that the manager been collecting money in an account for a special donation, but that you’d all like to donate that to their family now. (No need to get specific or make them feel as if they’re taking money from anyone else.)

    Then, collect again for the baby’s family.

    Reply
    1. The Other Dawn

      Yes, that’s how I feel about it, too. And if the employees can’t come up with more donations, maybe the company would step in and make the donation. It likely won’t be as much as what they collected the first time around, but I think it would be a nice gesture if they can at least give something (either the company or the employees). And if not, then I’d just leave the money with the manager’s family. Not because they don’t want to upset them by asking for it back, but because the family needs it just as much as the baby’s family.

      Reply
    2. KellyK

      I think we should take the OP’s word for it that people already dug deep and don’t have it to give again so soon. They might be able to scrape up something for the family with the preemie, but it’s very unlikely to be as much.

      Reply
  62. The Anonymous One

    I think you must say something so at the very least the manager’s family knows where the money came from. We don’t know how she managed her money with her family, but if she was transparent, her family may now suspect she was hiding money from them.

    Reply
  63. IT geek

    What would have happened if the events were reversed?

    If the manager’s family were in dire straits after losing her unexpectedly, would the coworkers have pooled together to help out?

    Then, what happens if a little while later, the other worker’s baby is born prematurely?

    I’d consider the $1500 a donation to the family of the deceased. I’d let them know. “So and so was collecting donations for another co-worker. In light of what happened, we really want this money to be yours, no strings attached.”

    And then figure out what you can do for the family of the baby.

    Reply
    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      Or, if the donation had already been made to the family with the premature baby, what would you have done for this coworker’s family?

      I’m not against the idea of telling the family what happened, but this is probably something you should consider.

      Reply
  64. em2mb

    I know a lot of people have been saying that the premature baby’s family would have mounting medical bills, but I do want to point out that the family of the deceased woman might, too. Unless she was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, it’s highly likely there are ambulance bills, emergency room bills, etc., even though this family didn’t get to bring their loved one home at the end.

    Reply
  65. CdnFinance

    I know there’s a lot of comments on here about executors and stuff like that. Just want to make clear that usually (in my experience in Canadian Financial Regulations) an executor can only have access to accounts when someone has passed away. If the manager is still alive (which it sounds like from this post) then it would be a Power of Attorney who could access those accounts.

    That being said, if the account was a joint one owned by her and her significant other, then they would be able to still access the funds with no issue.

    I don’t have any advice regarding how to do it tactfully, but I don’t know if an executor would even be able to help.

    Reply
    1. Bellatrix

      Nope, the manager is unfortunately dead.

      “The next day the manager who was supposed to write the check was killed in a car crash.”

      Reply
  66. Anne

    I’m extremely surprised at the number of people who suggest just letting this go. If I were the grieving party in this situation and I found out later that I’d accidentally kept over a thousand dollars that belonged to someone else because I had no idea it wasn’t mine, I would feel absolutely awful.

    Reply
    1. Risha

      I just keep thinking about the family with the baby. I can’t picture telling the employee that their coworkers raised desperately needed money for them, but this (horrible!) thing happened and it was too awkward to bring up, so everyone’s just going to let it go. It just seems… immature.

      Reply
      1. Backroads

        I agree. To be overly blunt, anyone who would cling to a couple thousand dollars that didn’t belong to their dearly departed is a jerk. I imagine upon explaining and proving the situation, most people would work with you.

        Reply
    2. Hillia

      I agree, and have also wondered – surely the deceased had talked about this situation with their SO or family members. And wouldn’t whoever is settling their affairs notice an unusual cash deposit of $1500 that wasn’t accounted for? Knowing what the situation was would be a minor relief, in that a small loose end is tied up.

      Reply
  67. Kathlynn

    So, this is why everyone needs to talk to someone in finance when a relative dies. If the estate doesn’t cover all the bills, you don’t always have to pay them. An accountant and/or (maybe) lawyer who specializes, or has decent experience in this would help. (I got the link by googling Who is responsible for medical bills after death in the USA)
    Quote:
    But fortunately the beneficiaries or heirs at law won’t be responsible for paying off the balance of the decedent’s unpaid debts (unless the beneficiary or heir at law was a co-signor or co-guarantor on the debt) – the companies that weren’t paid in full will simply have to write off the bad debt.

    https://www.thebalance.com/who-pays-off-a-deceased-person-s-debts-3505230

    Sadly the LW and her coworkers probably can’t get their money back. And there is probably no way for them to contact the family. But maybe it would/will help other people avoid financial stress.

    Reply
  68. Elle Woods

    If OP lives in the US it will depend on her state and the estate laws there. OP should notify the family about the situation though at any rate. I’d type more but dont want to give legal advice outside of where I’m licensed.

    Reply
  69. I'm Not Phyllis

    What an awful situation, all around. I don’t know what you should do BUT I would dissuade you from waiting for weeks or months to talk to the family about this. As someone who has been through the experience of having to handle an estate, I can tell you that in the months after a person’s death, you EXPECT to find out what you owe people. You expect there to be bills to deal with, loans to pay off, and generally exchanges happening of thousands of dollars. You deal with it because you expect it. If it was me, I wouldn’t blink an eye if someone told me that my relative owed them money (so long as they had the proper paper work to back it up) and I’d just pay it – frankly, people who have been through this kind of situation have bigger things on their minds than money. What is harder to deal with are things that creep out of the woodwork after you thought you were done – after you thought the estate was settled and you could finally start to sort through the messy grief of it all. So my advice would be, if you want to ask for them money please do it sooner rather than later … or not at all.

    Reply
    1. Somniloquist

      Thank you! I thought I was the only one thinking this. When my father died suddenly, people came out of the woodwork and we settled all his bills. It sucks, but I’d rather have paid for this one first than some of the others.

      Reply
  70. Amy

    How awful for everyone involved.

    I’m not a lawyer, but I’d bet that from a legal perspective, your company no longer has rights to this money. It’s in the deceased’s bank account, and there’s presumably no legal contract involved, so you probably can’t force the deceased’s family to give it back.

    But there are factors other than just what’s legally enforceable here. I think you have two options.
    1) Explain the circumstances and ask if they’d be willing to follow through on their loved one’s intentions for this money and give it to the family with the premature baby. They very well might, once the estate is settled and they have access to the account. Many people want to honor the desires of their lost loved ones. If you go this route and they agree, it would be good to send some kind of gesture to them–set up a second collection to help cover their costs, or send flowers or the like if that’s not possible.
    2) Contact the family, let them know where the money came from, and tell them you’d like to consider it a donation from you all to help with the financial side of such a loss. (A death like this can be very expensive; the deceased may have medical bills, and funerals and legal fees add up as well.) Take up a second collection for the family of the premature baby, separate from the money currently in the account.

    Maybe talk with your coworkers who contributed to the collection and take a vote on which approach to take?

    Reply
    1. Amy

      And going forward, it may be a good idea for collections like this to be kept somewhere other than a coworker’s personal account. There’s a lot of ways that can go sideways, even if the person keeping it is a trustworthy and above-board person.

      Reply
  71. Karen from Finance

    This may have been suggested (haven’t read through all the comments). But what if the company used the deceased manager’s salary to cover the amount of the donation? I know the LW said the company was small and couldn’t cover the amount of the donation, but the manager’s salary is already budgeted for and I would hope that her monthly salary would cover the donation.

    Reply
      1. Bellatrix

        I don’t think Karen meant deducting for her paycheck. But the company has already budgeted for next month’s salary, by which time the deceased coworker will no longer be on the payroll. So even though the LW says the company can’t afford to come up with $1500, they might be able to do so.

        Reply
  72. livingthedreaminmydreams

    What a horrible and difficult situation. I have no advice, but I will pray for wisdom and kindness for all involved. That’s all I can think of right now.

    Reply
  73. Miranda

    Ouch. Suggestions I’ve liked:
    See if company will match so that both hurt parties get equal $
    Use gofundme to raise for family with preemie and let grieving family keep $
    Arrange to split $ between both families by contacting family of the lost worker

    Worst case, money gone, can’t get more: (stolen from Jen up above, with comments in parenthesis added by me)
    * Donating your sick/vacation days so the husband can take paid leave (would have been very useful to us when my son was in NICU if it were possible)
    * Cooking meals for the family, both while their child is in the hospital and after they come home (restaurant gift cards were also lovely, and in our case more useful as our NICU was a little over an hour away from home)
    * Offering to drive them places, run errands, petsit their animals or help with childcare for other children (all good notions, we didn’t need this but son was our first baby)
    * If they have family coming into town, picking them up from the airport and/or driving them to the hospital
    * Creating care packages for the family (maybe a baby shower type thing, see if anyone has any good clean second hand stuff they can donate, depending on how early baby was they may have no nursery stuff, I know we didn’t)
    * Offering to mow their lawn, clean their house or take on other day-to-day responsibilities (oh yeah, any simple responsibilities that can be taken care of are definitely appreciated)

    Reply
    1. Miranda

      So, apology in order, I did read that the company couldn’t help, but by the time I commented, it’d left my little brain entirely. Scratch that one, and sorry for not retaining my reading better OP. I think I auto defaulted back to when I was the preemie mom(he’s a healthy 6 yr old now), the company hubby works for could’ve done it (thankfully nothing like that happened when his coworkers did collect funds for us), but they’re a huge multinational business, lots different there.

      Reply
  74. Student

    Your best bet here might be to talk to your fellow co-workers first, explain what’s happened, and ask if they’re willing to split the collection between the premature baby coworker and the spouse of the deceased co-worker. If you can legitimately offer the deceased spouse something, it would help everyone save face when it comes time to make decisions about the cash.

    This is going to be an uncomfortable conversation no matter what. You may get yelled at or cried on or worse. It’s also a conversation that you have an obligation to attempt. Send someone who is non-threatening and cool under pressure from your side.

    You tell them you’re sorry for the loss. You tell them you are sorry to have to bring this up at all, but there’s an estate matter to discuss. You explain succinctly that the deceased was holding a collection for a different c0-wroker, and you hand over an envelope with copies of all the relevant documentation. You ask for the money back, whether it’s half or everything. You give them some time to corroborate the info you’ve provided if they are skeptical or don’t have access to the bank yet, but then you follow up once or twice. If the spouse digs in, or refuses, you have to accept that it was a harsh loss that you have no real remedy for due to some exceptional circumstances that are unlikely to repeat.

    Reply
  75. Jenn

    Alison please delete if this is not okay.

    This is such a tough situation and I have been the family with the NICU baby, who subsequently died. I would be okay with donating a small amount through a site like GoFundMe or whatever is appropriate (but doesn’t involve me just dropping financial information at an internet stranger) as a pay-it-forward item right now today. Is it possible for the people in your company to run a fundraiser to match the original amount, so that you can donate to both families, including reaching out to this community here? (I totally get that the individuals in your company can’t necessarily do so again.)

    Another suggestion is to see about splitting the difference via her pay, if that’s legal, so something like: “Dear family, we would like to let you know about [Manager’s] generosity — she was raising funds for [x family, very brief details] and that amount is in her account. Here at [company] we would like to honour her commitment to [x family] while supporting you, so please keep those funds and we will compensate by [x action.]

    I feel for your company and wish you all the best, it sounds like a very caring place.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m uneasy about this for reasons that I’m having trouble articulating — not for this situation at all, but for the precedent it might set for potential future ones, where I’d be concerned about being in a role of having to judge what is/isn’t worthy of it and even what is/isn’t legit. I love that the readership here feels like enough of a community that they’d want to do this, but I think it has the potential to really complicate things.

      Reply
      1. Venus Supreme

        I’m in a lot of animal/pet-lover Facebook groups and I’ve noticed a pattern where one person gets a lot of money raised for a worthy cause, then 15 other equally worthy causes also need support, and before you know it there are over 75 active GoFundMe campaigns going at the same time. It’s a difficult line to draw before one gets overwhelmed. I’m also a little concerned about OP’s letter with asking the company to donate $1,500 to the employee with the NICU baby– I don’t know if that will open the door for other employees asking for support for their personal emergencies, or if this could be easily shut down as “this was a one-time thing.” Something for OP to consider.

        Reply
  76. Editor

    This is heartbreaking. Because of the difficulties if reclaiming the funds, I would ask each family if the would allow a story in local media — newspaper, television, or radio — asking for donations. In preparation, set up a trust account at a local credit union or bank stipulating the funds go for funeral and medical expenses for the deceased worker and medical and baby-care expenses for the preemie.

    I worked at newspapers in rural communities where such appeals were made, and people who didn’t know the individuals were nevertheless quite generous. Setting the bank account up properly also promotes trust, which is important given the facts of this case.

    Finally, in the meantime, co-workers could approach local United Way, American Red Cross, or community foundations to see if any of them can provide either family with assistance. If the worker who died in the crash was a churchgoer, maybe the small business could team with the church to do a fundraiser to replace the money asap (I am assuming that if the preemie parents are religious their church or other house of worship is already supporting them). Trying to get the money from the estate may take quite a while, but I do think approaching the funeral director or the clergy who conducted the funeral and asking them to help mediate a meeting with the deceased worker’s next of kin is reasonable. If my late husband had been holding someone else’s money, I would have paid it out of the insurance money if the checking account had already been depleted. That did take about six weeks to get access to, however, and the checks to draw on the life insurance were orders to pay that took longer for a bank to process than an actual bank check.

    Reply
  77. MommyMD

    That money is probably gone forever. There’s a possibility of getting it sometime in the future by contacting the executor of the estate and presenting the spreadsheets.

    If donations were made by checks that have not cleared, cancel them immediately.

    Sad all around.

    Reply
  78. BTW

    Omg, yikes. If I’m putting myself in the family’s shoes and a representative of my husband’s company approached me with this, I don’t think I’d hesitate. As long as there was sufficient evidence that this indeed did happen (and I mean who lies about that anyways?) I would 100% want to make sure the other family got the money that was raised for them. (Although obviously this has never happened to me so who really knows…) My advice is to just bring it up. I’m sure they know you are genuinely sorry for their loss and aren’t doing it to anger, frustrate, annoy etc. them. Good luck OP!

    Reply
  79. J.D.

    The OP could start a new GoFundMe for the premature baby and maybe the link could be posted here if it’s ok for Alison ?
    I know a lot of people read this site, and I would love to be able to give a little to the newborn, as I think it will be difficult (on so many levels) to get the money back.

    Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I talked a bit about this above — basically I’m uneasy with it because of the potential for future issues of deciding who to do it for or not do it for. I love that this community wants to do things like this, but I’m concerned about the potential for it to get complicated.

        Reply
        1. MegaMoose, Esq

          Also, given that you’re already dealing with concerns about the size of the comments section, gaining a reputation as a place to go to raise money is not going to help that problem one dang bit.

          Reply
    1. kms1025

      I wondered about a go fun me page too??? It seems to generate a lot of interest.
      And maybe the conversation goes something like “we’re wondering if you were able to disperse the charitible funds Mrs. X was holding for our fund drive for co-workers baby? And also, with your permission we want to setup a gofundme, page to help with final expenses for her”.

      Reply
      1. Temperance

        I actually think Go Fund Mes and the like are fairly unpopular unless the cause is extremely sympathetic. I also would, selfishly, really hate if people started trying to signal boost Go Fund Mes here. We all have issues that we care about, and people we want to help. It always gets ugly.

        Reply
  80. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks

    I feel bad for everyone involved. I don’t really have anything new to add as this is by every stretch of the imagination a bad situation. But as someone said in the earlier posts, Was anything documented about what OP and the group were doing for the co-worker with the premature baby? the OP did say there was a spreadsheet documenting who donated what. But are there any emails from the manager stating that she was going to deposit the cash and then write a check? If that’s documented, could this be presented to payroll so they could deduct the $1,500 from the manager’s final check?

    Reply
    1. phedre

      You can’t deduct from someone’s pay without their signed consent, deceased or not.

      I think the best options are either 1) politely speak to the family, or my preference: 2) the company doesn’t ask for it back and they use the money they were paying for the manager’s salary to pay an additional $1,500 to the NICU family.

      Reply
  81. Somniloquist

    My perspective for what it’s worth: grief is a terrible thing and I’ll probably never get over the sudden death of my family member. That being said, you have to pay a lot of people. And people will come after you for what the estate would owe them. I’d rather get a note right in the beginning that gives condolences and lines up the situation with the spreadsheets or other proof so I could pay that *first* (and feel good that as one life ends I help another begin) before, say, the bank. And it seems like something the deceased would have wanted. I would have made it work until the insurance kicked in or whatever.

    Of course mileage varies and people grieve so very differently so you could get a different reaction. And I would say *because* that’s the case, you should reach out and not sell this family short. Let them tell you what they’re capable of.

    Reply
  82. Stellaaaaa

    I don’t think the employee’s family would be surprised to learn that she left work projects unfinished. Could the money be approached as a work thing? “As manager, Jane was responsible for issuing X payment.”

    How were the donations collected? Did employees write checks to this manager? IMO the company is obligated to either retrieve or replace the money because this money never should have gone through anyone’s personal account, and employees never should have been instructed to write checks to one person if the money was meant for another. Which is to say that the company really does need to fix this. They’re dealing with the worst case scenario of why you don’t let employees deposit business funds into their personal bank accounts, especially if this was a joint marital checking account (as in, the husband is entitled to access and spend this money). What was the reason for this? The aesthetics of handing over one check as opposed to having the employees write checks to the person they were intended for? I’m not going to let the company off the hook here – they screwed up. This isn’t how donating works. The company can’t just throw their hands up and say whoops. They need to accept the loss and direct deposit the funds back into the employees’ bank accounts so they can write their own checks to the parents of the baby.

    If I were one of the employees, I might have approached the family with a copy of my check and explained things by now. In the spirit of donating, people are entitled to have their earmarks respected, and this money was earmarked for the baby. I might even have already tried to reverse payment on the check once it became clear that the company was willing to speak for me and declare my money a gift to someone else.

    Reply
  83. SleeplessKJ

    My first thought was for the OP and her co-workers to redirect the purpose of the funds and let the family of the deceased have it (assuming they can access it.) There simply is no humane way to ask a grieving family to turn that money over. Both situations are tragic. And the OP mentions that the family of the manager has started a gofundme so it’s clear that they need help too.

    Reply
  84. NCIS Crazy Town

    Split the funds? Honestly, if you want to ask for the money back from the grieving family who is in financial difficulties like the premature baby’s parents, I’d want to offer them something for the trouble. Plus you say that the office can’t dig deep to donate to another cause and come up with the same money. So maybe splitting it, $750 to both families, would be the best because it helps out everyone just a little bit.

    Reply
  85. Jessica

    I have another suggestion, since a) the money for the baby is time-sensitive and b) the coworkers are financially tapped.

    Bring up the situation sensitively with the family, as others have described. Then, say, “I’m so sorry that these two events have arrived so close together. We’ve given what money we could for the baby, but is there anything we could do for your family?” Anything like, help drive people around, help clean out Manager’s house, make some frozen meals, arrange a memorial, arrange a bake sale to raise money for XYZABC–something that isn’t “pooling money” but is still helpful to the family? That’d be a nice way to honor Manager’s memory, without taking something away from the cause for which the money was originally collected.

    Reply
  86. Noah

    Oh my. Definitely talk to the owner of the company! I know LW says it’s a small business without the money to replenish the $1,500, but I wouldn’t assume this. Under the circumstances, a generous owner may find a way to afford it.

    Reply
    1. starsaphire

      I’m on team “talk to the business owner” too.

      I have a REALLY hard time imagining a business large enough to even have a single employee, that doesn’t have $1,500 in liquid assets that can be spent toward employee morale.

      Also? Really, really good time to put out a mass email gently reminding everyone about the company’s EAP (if it has one) or the area’s local low-cost/sliding-scale counseling services.

      Reply
      1. Nerdling

        We owned a business with a single employee. My husband never took a paycheck during the two years it was open, nor did the other owner. It never turned a profit. So, no, there would have been no $1500 in liquid assets available to the company that wouldn’t have been turned around and paid back out of our personal account from my (completely separate) job later to make sure the business could pay its bills. I think you’d be surprised how often that happens with small businesses.

        Reply
        1. MegaMoose, Esq

          Yeah, I worked for a bookstore in high school (maybe 4 part-time employees total) that I’m pretty sure the owners were subsidizing as a labor of love.

          Reply
        2. PM Jesper Berg

          Fair enough, but a company that is in such dire financial straits is likely to have problems meeting payroll — which means it shouldn’t be orchestrating employee donation campaigns to begin with.

          Reply
  87. Chatterby

    1. Send a letter of condolence and/or flowers from the office. This act should be separate from all other steps. If another collection can be taken, even if it’s significantly smaller, do so.
    2. Contact someone, such as the funeral director or sibling of the deceased, and inquire if they know who is handling the technical/business aspects and loose ends of the loss while the family is grieving. Hopefully there will be someone. If the one handling the nitty gritty is a member of her immediate family, mention that there are some business loose ends, such as returning her business computer, sorting out her business account, and items from her desk, which need to be tied up during the initial discussion, but offer to wait a week or two after the funeral to send details (this way it won’t be a shock, out of the blue, you-owe-$-gimme-now)
    3. Apologize, but say that the manager had deposited business funds into her account for the purposes of writing a check the day before the terrible accident. Offer to provide documentation that the money is from the business and request it be returned once they have access to the account and are able. Maintain an apologetic, sympathetic tone during this exchange and do not mention that the money was a charity collection, use ‘business funds’. If possible, add this to a list of impersonal, stoically-stated other things, such as a request for an address where they would like her personals sent and where to pick up any business items she’d taken home. Try and make the exchange as easy and convenient as possible for the one handling it.

    Reply
  88. Madeleine Matilda

    This is a little off topic from the OP’s question, but I can’t help thinking not only about both families who are dealing with difficult situations, but also about OP and her coworkers who have lost their manager and have a coworker who has a baby in the NICU. I hope that not only are the families getting the support they want/need but also that the employees at OP’s company are being given support.

    Reply
  89. I GOTS TO KNOW!

    I would definitely say something to the family in a gentle, tactful way. This situation is just so awful all around, and I am sorry the manager didn’t have a financial plan for her after death expenses and so the family is raising money. That is so common and so unfortunate. That said, this money wasn’t raised for the purposes of a funeral (I assume your company usually sends flowers or something in a situation like this and that should still be done)

    If I were the family member in this situation, I would want to know ASAP and I would do everything in my power to assist. The death of my family member shouldn’t mean not helping a preemie fighting for life. I’d be honored my family member was so involved in helping a coworker in such a stressful and upsetting situation. I know everyone isn’t like that, but I think there are enough of us that it isn’t a huge risk reaching out to the family.

    I hope you do reach out and find a solution that works for everyone. I am so sorry for all involved. For the parents of the preemie, for the manager and her family, and for you and your coworkers caught between a rock and a hard place.

    Reply
  90. T.C.

    I didn’t have time to read through all of the comments before posting, so not sure if it’s been mentioned… Can you split the donation 50/50? Since the manager who passed has a family in need, it might go over better to explain the circumstances and only ask for $750 for the NICU family. And then of course, you could organize meals and such for both families to try and help fill in the gaps.
    A very tricky situation indeed.. might make it easier for the deceased’s family to know that you all are trying to help them too.

    Reply
  91. Blue eagle

    When my father passed, I was the personal representative (i.e. executor, but our state doesn’t use that term) for his estate. The attorney assisting with filing probate was required to post a legal notice asking his debtors to come forward within 30 days so they could be paid. This money is, in fact, a debt that the manager owes to the premie’s family.

    I don’t understand all of the commenters wanting the company to come up with the $1500 (doesn’t matter whether they can) or wanting the money to be split 50/50. The money was intended for the premie’s family and that is where it should go.

    If the AAM commenters want the right to choose for the money to stay with the manager’s family, how about if they step up and donate to the premie’s family or set up a GoFundMe account for the premie’s family, rather than assigning more work to the co-workers or self-righteously requiring the company to come up with the funds.

    Reply
    1. NCIS Crazy Town

      AAM commenters are not demanding the right to choose how the money is used. The question was posed to the community and we are answering it, giving what advice we can. How does that mean we’re deciding and demanding who gets the money.

      I think it’s very awkward to approach a family that is lacking financial means to give their loved one a proper send off in the middle of a very difficult time and ask them to sign over money (especially if there’s no proof saying the intended purpose of the money). That’s why I agree with the 50/50 comments because then it gives a little bit to two different families going through very extreme circumstances.

      Reply
  92. BananaPants

    I’m honestly surprised that so many people think it’s OK to just let this money go to the deceased manager’s family or try to split the funds. I’m approaching this from the standpoint of the employees who donated. They weren’t giving to a general “office care fund” for any employee in need, they were giving it for Wakeen’s family’s needs as their baby is in the NICU. If the events were reversed in sequence, would they have all given the same amount to Jane’s family? Doubtful – some may have given more, but others may have given less or nothing. They were donating for a specific person and purpose. Would I be happy to know that the money I gave for Wakeen went to Jane instead? Probably not.

    To be blunt, while I might dig deep and donate a bunch for a collection for a well-liked or close colleague, I might not dig so deep or donate at all for a collection for someone I don’t know well, don’t work with, or who makes substantially more money than me, or is experiencing a different life event.

    Besides, if people are close to the employee with the preemie, I think it’s likely that at some point he WILL find out that there was a collection taken up by his coworkers – and it’ll be clear that the money never got to him. What a punch in the gut, to have his employer basically decide that another family’s tragedy was more worthy of the money that was generously and originally donated to his family!

    Reply
    1. Venus Supreme

      Agreed. I don’t think it’s fair for the employee with the baby or for the employees who donated to the family’s crisis that the money was left in the manager’s bank account because no one contacted the surviving family. I think a tactful conversation with the family is necessary. Uncomfortable, but necessary.

      Reply
    2. Backroads

      Agreement! This is a situation where it seems fear of awkwardness is the deciding factor in a lot of comments. I get it, but at the end of the day, that money had a specific, generous purpose, and this new awful tragedy does not diminish that.

      I’d bet the family is not so heartless as to deny money that was never theirs or their loved one’s to a premie and its family.

      Speak up and approach the family sooner rather than later.

      Reply
    3. Jade

      Man I feel like a bad person for agreeing with you, but it’s a good point: the coworkers who made these donations directed those donations toward a specific person and a specific cause. They may have also been inclined to donate toward the family of the deceased had it happened first, but you can’t make those assumptions on the donors’ behalf. In that case, I suppose the right thing to do here is to get the $1500 refunded (through attorney if necessary) and then maybe ask the original donors how they would like their money to be donated at that point in lieu of the recent events.

      Reply
    4. MegaMoose, Esq

      Woops, I was scrolling through new comments from the bottom and basically said just this. This isn’t a question of which party is more worthy of the money, or what is the easiest way to avoid potential awkwardness. There are three groups here that need to be considered: the donors, the next-of-kin, and the intended donees (and why does Google think that’s not a word?). There are a lot of individual decisions that go into donating money, and I think it is not fair to assume that anyone willing to give $x to one worthy cause would be willing to give $x to another, different worthy cause. It’s important to try and be considerate to all three groups, but I don’t think it’s good to overlook one group (the donors) entirely.

      Reply
  93. Falling Diphthong

    This is the exemplar for situations that can really only be resolved with a time machine. Everyone did everything right, and all outcomes are still bad. Guessing at a least-cringing outcome would involve someone with good judgment, a little emotional remove, but intimate knowledge of the manager’s family, and those aren’t issued whenever it would be handy to have one.

    Reply
    1. Stellaaaaa

      Actually the company messed up when they decided to collect donations in this manner. I’ve been the employee who says stuff like, “I’d prefer to write my check out to Maggie’s family directly than write it to Jane. I don’t care if it seems more convenient to have Jane write one check for all of us.” It makes me come off like a square and a sourpuss but there are a million reasons why these checks should never have been written to anyone other than the intended recipient. The company (or at least the person organizing the gift) made a very expensive mistake.

      No one wants to be the person who pipes up with stuff like, “I only donate to causes that are registered non-profits” or “Okay, let’s think through the worst case scenario of dumping $1,500 into Jane’s joint checking account, which gives ‘ownership’ of the money to Jane’s husband – he could spend it on himself since we all wrote the checks to Jane and not Maggie.” You never really know if Jane is the sort of person to write the check for $20 or $50 or $100 less than the amount she put in her own bank account. This is exactly why you need that one annoying person in every office who will point this stuff out. Things never go wrong until they do.

      Reply
      1. Sprinkled with Snark

        This is absolutely true. Remember when we had an OP write about a female co-worker who was holding the office donations in her purse and she either lost the purse in a department store or had it stolen and never made the deposit? There was a lot of discussion if this woman was being dishonest or just incredibly unwise to go shopping with all that money in her bag. A lot can happen from the time the cash and checks are collected to the time the money is actually placed in the colleague’s hands.

        On another point, what if this amount had been quite significant, like a charitable donation or sponsorship that the manager was depositing in her personal checking account? It can be completely on the up and up but what if she died with 25K or 50K or more in her checking account? Would the company be okay asking for “half” of it back, or asking for the family to return it “when they were ready?” Or giving them the “option” to return it?

        Reply
  94. Aveline

    Another estate and probate attorney chiming in:

    This is not estate property. Therefore, all the talk about debts and creditor priority is irrelevant.

    What the OP needs to do ASAP, is to notify the next of kin that Sue (the deceased) was holding funds in trust in her bank account in the amount of $1500. These are not estate funds and should be returned as soon as an executor or administrator is appointed.

    However – big however – if there is POD beneficiary on the bank account, things get wonky. Those funds would not go into the probate estate. There’s nothing the executor or probate judge can do. The OP would have to sue the POD beneficiary for their return.

    OP may want to contact a local probate attorney and pay them $150 or so to write a letter to the family. That would be standard where I live for such a thing.

    Reply
      1. Aveline

        That depends on the state and the terms of the account.

        The money was still legally not the deceased person’s funds.

        I’d think, as a practical matter, it’s going to be like if it has a payable on death beneficiary. It’s going to be hard to get it back if it’s spent.

        Suing in small claims for the conversion may be the only way.

        Reply
    1. Jade

      Would they be well advised to contact the family personally first before having a lawyer send a letter, even if it was just to say “This is a heads up on what happened. You should be receiving a letter from an attorney about it soon?” If I were in the shoes of the deceased’s family, I would probably get that letter and think “Why didn’t someone from Jane’s workplace tell me this themselves?”

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Aveline does say to contact the next of kin first.

        I think I’d contact the next of kin, but I don’t think I’d go beyond that; I really don’t want my company to be the one known for hiring a lawyer to badger a grieving spouse about some office collection.

        Reply
  95. PastaForDinner

    Since both the holder of the money and the intended beneficiary of the collection are coworkers, I think I’d consider the $1500 gone, but approach the owner/local boss/whatever with the situation, and present it like this: In order to minimize the deceased’s family’s grief, but to make sure we still help the newborn’s parents, would you be willing to make a gift to the family of the equivalent of our collection? That way they know we have done this concrete action for them, the deceased’s family is not asked to repay money they may already have spent, AND the company probably can take a deduction for at least part if not all of it.

    Reply
  96. That Would Be a Good Band Name

    I feel like everyone is missing the obvious. The grieving family is fundraising for funeral costs. Assuming they have access to her bank account (depending on the set up of the account it could be frozen until the estate is settled), then the money is spent and gone and the family does not have money to replace it. The letter just mentions “her family”, and does not specify if this was family she lived with, it’s quite possible that no one in her family was knowledgeable about her finances if she lived alone. Also, if she hadn’t got around to depositing the money quite yet (as we can’t be 100% on timing), then you can guarantee that cash found in her possession went directly towards the expenses they are fundraising to cover.

    I’m not saying to just let it go, but I think they need to be prepared to hear that the money was spent on final costs and that no one has any ability to replace it.

    Reply
    1. Sprinkled with Snark

      But sadly, isn’t that exactly what you’re saying, to just let that money go? Either kindly make the family aware that it is not theirs to spend, or just accept the fact that it’s gone and never discuss it with them. All of what you said may be true, but the woman died in a fatal car accident- -without insurance? No life, death, accident, whole life, double indemnity? We don’t know if the family is “accepting” donations for the funeral costs, as is quite customary, or if the family is really hurting right now. They could be in a crunch now but next week have a huge check in their hands. The family with the baby, however, will be paying out a huge price even with insurance. Even if the family DID spend the money on the funeral, it still wasn’t theirs to spend in the first place, and they should be made aware of that. They could take care of that obligation when/if their insurance pays off if that money is gone.

      Reply
      1. That Would Be a Good Band Name

        No, I think gently bring it up, but be prepared to find out it was spent and how to respond in that instance. I also wouldn’t assume there is life or accidental insurance. Not all employers provide it and since this is a company that can’t come up with $1500, it makes more sense to assume it didn’t. She may have had her own policy, but again, I wouldn’t assume so. I don’t have a bit of life insurance outside of what my employer provides. If they didn’t provide any, I wouldn’t bother to get my own policy even though I should. It’s one of those things that’s on a list of things that I should do, but is oh so easy to put off because no one is going to force me to have it.

        Reply
          1. fposte

            I have auto insurance but no life insurance, because I have no dependents who would benefit. Without those dependents, it makes more sense for me to put money elsewhere. I do have auto insurance, and home insurance, because those are protecting somebody I care about: me.

            Reply
            1. That would be a good band name

              This worded my reasons better than I could. But, yes, auto, homeowners, and even flood insurance. As well as medical. Life insurance had never seemed like a necessity. I have no debts and do not even want a funeral service.

              Reply
    2. Jade

      This is a good point. If the bank account was, say, a joint account with a spouse, it’s reasonable to assume the spouse would have immediate access to those funds and they could have already withdrawn them to pay for the expenses.

      Reply
      1. N

        That would raise another question, though–would the manager have deposited $1,500 into the joint account without telling the spouse that it would be given to one of their employees?

        To be honest, I’ve never shared a bank account with a significant other, and my parents never did it when I was a kid, either. Do married couples really just spend each other’s money like that?

        Reply
        1. Jade

          Lots of married couples do have joint accounts, but you’re right- you would assume a spouse would have been informed of the money if it were in a joint account, or if they found out on their own, would have at least questioned it. the letter doesn’t specify if the deceased was married, so it’s hard to know what the family’s access to the account is exactly.

          Reply
  97. Former Retail Manager

    My opinion may not be well received here, but I believe that death trumps a premature baby considering that it sounds as if both families have encountered substantial financial difficulty. (My response would be different if they were on different financial footing, which the letter has lead me to believe isn’t the case) If the baby situation never existed, the co-workers would presumably have taken up a collection to help the deceased manager’s family. The fact is circumstances change and, while not an ideal manner in which to have conveyed the funds to the deceased manager’s family, they have them now. I’d argue that they need them more. The deceased will never be returning to work and that family has permanently lost a wage earner. Presumably, the parent(s) of the preemie will eventually return to work. Once again, if they are not on substantially similar financial footing (i.e. deceased manager has a surviving spouse who makes 6 figures while the preemie parents make $50k combined, then I’d use one of the sensitive approaches above and ask for the money back)

    Definitely a tough situation for all.

    Reply
    1. MegaMoose, Esq

      I recognize that this is a difficult situation, but I’m pretty surprised by how many people (not just you!) seem to think it’s morally acceptable to move the money from one worthy cause to another without consulting the people who donated the money. It’s up to the individuals who donated to decide which situation they want to put their money toward. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with *you* feeling that a death trumps a premature baby, but that’s a decision that everyone should be making for themselves.

      Reply
    2. Blue eagle

      And if you personally are contributing the money, then it is fine for you to make that determination. However, you didn’t personally contribute the money and any co-worker collection for a deceased that I have ever seen has never come anywhere near $1500.

      Reply
    3. Chriama

      I strongly and wholeheartedly disagree with you. Premature baby has lots of huge medical bills and unavoidable costs for months to come. The family of the deceased can opt for a super cheap funeral (or cremation and a home memorial service) and just tell the hospital there’s no money for the funeral bills. But more importantly, we don’t know that the coworkers would have taken up a collection for the manager (maybe they would have just sent flowers). Or that the same coworkers who donated to the premie would have donated to the manager, or for the same amount. And unilaterally deciding to redirect the funds (or asking if everyone’s ok but with an assumption that the answer is ‘yes’ and no plan for what to do if people say ‘no’) is imposing your own moral perspective on everyone else, which I don’t appreciate. If the money is gone, fine. But it’s not fair to say they should assume it’s gone without checking first.

      Reply
      1. animaniactoo

        Just to be clear – as per his own wishes, my grandfather had a super cheap funeral, and the bill was $6,000 not including the plot that was already paid for.

        Note, when I say super-cheap, I mean a graveside service and a pinewood box. And a downgrade from a hearse to a black suv.

        And most funeral homes will not bill later, they want their money up front.

        Reply
    4. Temperance

      FWIW, though, for personal reasons, I don’t donate to any Go Fund Me or other fundraiser to help pay for funeral costs. It more often than not helps to fund churches whose policies I vehemently disagree with.

      I wouldn’t donate to this cause, or would give a token amount. I would pay much more for the baby, who is still alive and who will need a lot of support. A friend of mine had a preemie, and her daughter was in the NICU for three months. She’s fortunate that her husband is a teacher and their girl was covered by his excellent, low-cost insurance. Otherwise, her baby’s bills would have been in the low millions.

      Reply
  98. Andrea

    You would likely have taken up a collection for the deceased coworker. Leave that money to the family as the contribution and take up another collection for the preemie.

    Reply
    1. Stellaaaaa

      No. I might donate to a preemie but not to a deceased coworker, depending on whether I agreed with how the money would be spent. They might not have taken up a collection for the funeral expenses – I rarely see that as a matter of course.

      Reply
      1. Sprinkled with Snark

        I agree. Usually an office collection for a co-worker’s death involves a floral arrangement. I wouldn’t dig too deep for that.

        Reply
  99. Jade

    The first thing that came to my mind was maybe the company could leave the family of the deceased with the original money and set up a fundraiser for the family of the preemie, and that sharing the story of what happened with the donations might inspire people to donate because it’s such a rare and tragic situation to occur. Then I immediately realized this would be a bad idea because a lot of people out there would vilify the family of the deceased for “not turning over the money,” and it would get ugly. Perhaps a more sensible solution is for the company or one of the employees to hold a fundraiser for the family of the preemie without disclosing the story of what happened to the money. I’m sure *anything* this raised would be useful to the new parents.

    As an aside, this post opened my eyes to how many things can go wrong by the usual method of “handing one employee everyone’s cash” for a fundraiser (misplacing it, having it stolen, dishonest collector, etc). A few readers above have made some good points about setting up special accounts for donations, etc., that I will keep in mind the next time I am donating or in charge of collecting donations anywhere.

    Reply
    1. Jade

      I want to clarify (cause I realize re-reading this that I didn’t make it too clear) that I was suggesting the employees could initiate a community fundraiser, ala GoFundMe, rather than asking the original donors to pony up money they’ve stated they don’t have.

      However, after reading through other comments, it seems like getting the donation back from the second family is legally plausible, so that’s the route I’m advocating at this point anyway.

      Reply
  100. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks

    I think we all agree that no matter how you slice this, it’s a bad situation. I think a couple of take aways from this are:
    1. When Donating, always document. Document how much each person donated and Document Exactly what the money is going to be used for.
    2. If you don’t want to give Cash to the recipient, purchase a money order with the money collected. Again, document this.
    3. (this is mostly for small companies and “mom & pop” organizations) Have /institute a policy regarding Donations (and include what actions will be taken SHOULD the unthinkable happen)

    Reply
  101. bopper

    But a manager most likely makes more money than the coworker plus there is most likely life insurance. There is no premie insurance.

    Reply
  102. Chickaletta

    Definitely approach the family about the money, being tackful, factual, apologetic, and not trying to conceal your embarrassment or other feelings about what you’re doing. All feelings out in the open is probably a good thing here.

    Is there a way to donate the money in memory of the coworker who was killed? Something simple like a plaque, a PR notice to the local media in your community, mention in the company newsletter, etc. that acknowledges both the woman who was killed and the family who is receiving the money. “In memory of Jane Doe, a donation was made to the Jones family on [date]. (nice quote here about the circle of life, one life ending the other beginning, etc)”

    Reply
  103. the OP

    Thank-you to Alison for posting my letter. Thank-you to (almost) everyone who responded and offered their suggestions. We haven’t decided what to do yet but I know my colleagues will be happy with all the suggestions.

    I will say however, I am a bit disappointed how some people said I needed to ask the company to cover the cost. My letter stated the company is unable to do so. So I don’t know why so many people suggested that. Even after at least one commentator pointed out that Alison doesn’t want people to question the letter writers, it still continued. I am both miffed and disappointed that I was not believed.

    Reply
    1. frequentreader-newcommenter

      OP: I was frustrated for you. I hope you and your coworkers find a resolution that works for everyone. As I stated earlier, if it were up to me, I’d reach out to the manager’s family. It would give me comfort knowing that a loved one was involved in raising funds for a critically-ill newborn’s family right before her death.

      Reply
    2. Stellaaaaa

      The issue is that the company is to blame for not handling the donations properly in the first place. It’s not okay for a business to mishandle donations and then say, “Welp, your earmarked cause didn’t get the money because we made a mistake, and guess what! We’re also not going to take responsibility or attempt to fix it.” A company that can’t cover $1,500 in lost funds shouldn’t be sending donations home with an employee. I realize that your emotions are fried and this is hugely stressful, but it’s my opinion that your company needs to own this as their error. This isn’t how donations should ever be handled, for exactly these reasons.

      Reply
      1. Stellaaaaa

        ETA for clarification: It’s not that people didn’t believe you. It’s that one cannot ask for help solving a problem with the stipulation that the responsible party not be held responsible. “How can I fix the company’s/upper management’s mistake without holding them accountable?”

        Reply
        1. frequentreader-newcommenter

          Over the years, I’ve contributed to informal office fundraisers that were suggested by colleagues, none of which were “sponsored by” our employer. The OP wasn’t asking for advice to “fix a company/management’s mistake,” rather how do they approach the deceased person’s family about the donation.

          Both situations are very unfortunate, but it doesn’t change the fact that the donors’ intent was to support the premature baby’s family. As she mentioned, some people dug deep into their pockets and it’s not up to any of us to tell those people how their hard-earned money should or shouldn’t be spent. I’ve been taken aback by the many posts arguing which is more devastating — a person’s funeral or a premature baby’s medical expenses. Or the alternate, potentially complicated/time-consuming things they should try. Again, the OP asked for advice on how to approach the family about the donated money. That’s all.

          Reply
        2. Chriama

          Yeah… I don’t think that’s super accurate. We don’t know how involved the company was from the beginning. It’s very common for employees to organize stuff like this on their own, and not actively shutting it down is not the same as endorsing or facilitating it. I think people are just unhappy all around and looking for a nice, neat solution. Sometimes there isn’t one.

          Reply
          1. Stellaaaaa

            The reality is that the company really should have shut it down unless they honestly didn’t know about it. The employees meant well but it’s 100% the company’s responsibility to advise employees not to write checks to one employee when the total amount is meant to go to another one. It’s not okay for an employee to say, “Just write all the checks out to me instead of the parents of the baby.”

            I’ve worked at many, many small businesses, even ones that don’t have officialized roles that would handle money or other things in this arena. Someone with a clue still should have stepped in and shut this down. Unless we all want people to always be collecting money from coworkers on company premises. I’m assuming that someone went around to all the employees to ask for the donations. They possibly even got permission to send out a company-wide email. This is absolutely a company problem. It’s not that hard for someone else in management to hear the chatter about the donations and say, “Wait a minute, that’s not how this works. It could go wrong in so many ways. Everyone needs to just write out their checks to Maggie’s family instead. Jane isn’t depositing this money into her private account.”

            I know I sound like a hardass here but this is a textbook example for why this stuff is never a good idea. Even if no one at the company foresaw the potential for problems, they’re still responsible for not knowing better.

            The money was collected at the workplace and was presumably being consolidated into one check so it could be given on behalf of the company. The company is on the hook.

            Reply
            1. Stellaaaaa

              And of course another clarifying ETA: A manager went home with $1,500 of employee money. Even if she was the only higher-up involved, management was involved in the donation process, which makes it a company issue. No manger should ever have employees handing her cash or checks made out in her own name. I might feel different about this if employees did this on their own, but that’s not the case here.

              Reply
        3. Jade

          I get the point you’re making it, but I think the way you’re phrasing your opinions right here is coming off as rude and preachy and not having a helpful tone.

          Reply
      2. NCIS Crazy Town

        I don’t think that’s true at all. Every donation that’s been taken up at my office (for happy causes like marriages and people moving onto new jobs, and sad causes like family deaths and injuries) it had nothing to do with the company. Even ones started by managers were never under the heading of the company, just being spearheaded by a manager.

        The only way I could see pulling the company into it was if the manager put the money in a company account rather than a personal one (but either way the OP makes it clear the company can’t cover the cost). Otherwise this is definitely just between the employees, not something for the company to get involved in.

        Reply
        1. PM Jesper Berg

          “Even ones started by managers were never under the heading of the company, just being spearheaded by a manager”
          Sorry, but if a donation campaign is spearheaded by an authority figure at a company, it’s being done in the name of the company. Participation isn’t truly voluntary (unless, just perhaps, there’s a way to donate anonymously).

          Reply
          1. NCIS Crazy Town

            It is voluntary actually, myself and others opted out at various times for financial reasons. We didn’t donate to every cause.

            Reply
      3. Drea

        Yeah, I too see this as a cost of doing business situation / unfortunate accident, even if the company wasn’t formally organizing this. If the manager had been mugged onthe way to the bank, or someone had stolen the envelope out of her drawer while she was at lunch, what would you have done then? The money would be gone. Sometimes these things happen. If the company wants to keep morale up and do the right thing by all parties, they should figure out a way to come up with the money. I also agree that they’re likely not immediately replacing the deceased coworker, so they will be “saving” on that salary for a few weeks at least.

        Reply
    3. Chriama

      I sympathize with your frustration, and I was especially surprised at the number of people saying the coworkers should just donate again. I think people were really hoping for a way to resolve this that doesn’t end up with anyone uncomfortable, hurt or angry. Unfortunately there isn’t always a perfect solution, so I think your best bet is to contact the family of the deceased as soon as possible and let them know the situation. The longer you wait, the more likely that money gets spent or allocated somewhere else.

      Reply
    4. the OP

      Having the company cover the cost or asking people to donate again are not options as I stated in my letter. If it was in wouldn’t have written to Alison looking for a solution.

      In the case of an employee or an employer’s loved one passing away we would send flowers. Not fundraise for a funeral.

      I enjoy reading this site every day but if I knew I was going to not be believed and lectured about things I cannot change and options I don’t have I would have never written in.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Hey, OP. I’m sorry a couple of people have done that. Whenever you get a large group of strangers from all different walks of life together, a few are going to rub you the wrong way — I think it’s unavoidable. But I’m hopeful that the majority of comments here have been useful to you and that you can just ignore the ones that aren’t.

        Reply
        1. the OP

          Oh Alison, I hope I didn’t come across as being upset with you. That was not my intention. I did find useful information from everyone else and I always find your answers helpful. Thank you for printing my letter.

          Reply
  104. Chriama

    Man, I’m super surprised at all the comments saying just leave it, or try to raise money again, or just redirect the donation. I guess I’m kind of cold, and I might feel differently if I was directly involved in the situation, but this is not the manager’s money. And if I had sacrificed money to give to a coworker with a premature baby I wouldn’t be happy for someone to have contributed that to a funeral on my behalf. For one thing, a lot of medical expenses can be written off after death. Also, funeral expenses strike me as more of an ‘optional’ thing than all the medical issues around a premature baby. You can choose to have a cheaper funeral, or cremate, or something. And I understand that there are *strong* reasons why those costs may seem (or be) necessary, but I personally would want my sacrifice going where I intended it to go.

    Now if the family says they don’t have it, or refused to give it, I wouldn’t fight it too hard. But that doesn’t mean I want to give it up without saying anything.

    Reply
    1. Chriama

      I also want to add – as a coworker I would probably also resent being asked if I’m ok with repurposing the money to the dead coworker. It’s a question that has an implied right answer. And if I say ‘no’ and other people say ‘yes’ and I get overruled, now my donation was forcibly directed by majority vote. So I think the most appropriate thing to do is ask the family for it back and let coworkers know the outcome if it turns out they can’t or won’t give the money back.

      Reply
      1. Tealeaves

        +1 on this.
        Even if I only donated a few dollars, I would want it to go to the intended cause, not repurposed because of a majority vote. The manager was trusted with the funds partly because of their position (being a manager), however the cause being collected for was entirely personal. For those saying you should split the money, have you considered that even if the manager was a nice kind person, not everyone feels close enough / moved enough to donate to the funeral? As OP mentioned, the appropriate action for the office is to send flowers as a group, not officially donate to the funeral (it still needs to be a personal, individual choice). Can I check with OP, did the office already send flowers to the funeral? It would make it easier to approach the family because they would recognise the company name and know that you cared at the point of time it happened.

        Definitely give it a try speaking to the family. Writing off the money/doing another fundraiser just to avoid confrontation is a terrible idea since so many people’s money is involved, it’s not just yours to forget about out of goodwill. It’s been 2 months after the funeral, it’s more than enough time to approach them. Do it now while they are still in the mode of buckling up and Dealing With It (being busy with practical stuff like cancelling phone lines, subscriptions, handling bank issues, etc). Bring along documentation of any sort like emails, the collection sheet, and also mention the specific date that the money was supposed to be deposited so the family can check bank records (or maybe if the money is actually still in the collection envelope somewhere, they could find it for you). Waiting too long raises the danger of them accidentally spending the money they mysteriously found in the bank account. When you need funds and you find them, you’re not going to question where it came from. Also, it’s potentially more hurtful to bring up the issue months later when they’re trying to move on already. If they don’t want to return the money or can’t find it, then that’s the (unfortunate) result of the attempt. I’m hoping they do the right thing.

        Reply
        1. Tealeaves

          To add on: People keep suggesting this, but even if people at the office HAD the funds to re-raise the money, that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. They donated to a cause, and the money is trapped / missing. That’s really what needs to be solved.

          Reply
  105. Fluffer Nutter

    OP- if you are in the US and if the fatal crash was caused by another driver, there should be criminal charges and therefore a victim advocate involved, either at the police/sheriff/state patrol, or a non profit that contracts with law enforcement. Only a few states have no mandated victim services. The advocates are specially trained for all kinds of delicate situations and the family might take it better coming from a neutral 3rd party. Good luck and so sorry for all involved.

    Reply
  106. Barney Stinson

    I would let the estate keep that money as if you had raised it for the manager, and then re-raise money for the baby. Let the manager’s family know what happened.

    I mean: you’d contribute for the manager any way; let that original amount be for her now.

    Terribly sad…

    Reply
    1. Stellaaaaa

      I’m curious as to why people keep assuming that the office would also have donated toward final expenses. I would not want to help pay for burial at a religious institution that I felt uneasy with. I would not want to pay for embalming and a coffin when I personally prefer cremation. My reasons are allowed to be stupid and personal, as many of my spending habits tend to be.

      That aside, people often budget their charitable giving and they might already have planned the rest of their donations for the year.

      Reply
  107. Deceased estates person

    I’ve worked in financial deceased estates so for the last few years I’ve spent my workdays sorting out the bank accounts of people who’ve passed away. I’ve never seen anything like this and don’t know what to do with it.

    I’m fairly certain it would be difficult to make a formal legal claim on the money based on the documents you have.

    Something to consider re:telling the family of the deceased is many executors/administrators make sure they know all the reasons money is coming into accounts so they can redirect future payments accordingly. This could cause them confusion if they don’t know where it’s from

    Reply
  108. Passing Through

    Often after a death there is family member, neighbor or friend who steps up to help the family with details like meals, arrangements, finding lodging for out of town relatives, etc. when the family is too stressed to think clearly about that stuff. If you could identify a person like that helping the manager’s family, you could approach them to feel out the appropriate time to talk to a family member. Even if you decide to let the family keep the money, don’t you need to let them know somehow that it is from the co-workers? Otherwise, I can see co-workers thinking they helped out by agreeing to let them keep the money, but the family never knowing that, and maybe wondering why the manager’s colleagues didn’t reach out in some way.

    Reply
  109. Imaginary Number

    I had the very unpleasant (but necessary) experience of being appointed an SCMO in the Army. SCMOs are the officers temporarily appointed to deal with the personal effects of a person who has been KIA. The case I was appointed to involved a Soldier who had no will and was the child of divorced parents, which meant that I had to contact the parents to find out who last had custody. A necessary legal step, even though we’re only talking about items that probably amounted to less than $500. It’s hard to tell someone “I’m so sorry we have to bother you but legally I need to know where to send your son’s computer games.” We did everything through written communication, giving the parents the option to contact us by phone if they wished, or to reply through the mail. I recommend that’s how you proceed here because it allows them to choose whether even to have that conversation over the phone or to deal with it in writing. Make sure the letter is phrased congenially so it doesn’t sound aggressively legal. Given them multiple contact options (phone, email, post.) Unfortunately this is a slow way to get the money back, but I think it’s the right way to do it.

    Reply
  110. Lawyer Here

    A lot of people seem to be struggling with the idea that this money belongs to the estate. It really doesn’t.

    If you donate money to one of those store front Santas that always materialize in the winter in the US, and said Santa dies in a car wreck before getting the money back to the office….that money doesn’t suddenly belong to Santa’s family. It needs to go to the intended charity. You would expect it to do so in accordance with the intent of your donation.

    I’m borrowing some expensive tools from a coworker for a project this weekend. If I die, those tools do not become the property of my heirs – they still belong to the original owner. And it certainly won’t be my employer’s responsibility to spare them the awkwardness of asking for the tools back by writing a check.

    Is this situation tragic? Yes. It is going to be super-awkward to bring up? Yes. But that doesn’t mean you just let it go. If the group who made these donations are in agreement that they still want the money to go the preemie, then they need to elect someone to take the evidence of the collection to the executor/personal rep, or whichever family member is appropriate (unclear of the dynamics – could be a spouse, parent, or adult child) and lay out the situation.

    “I know this is a terrible time for you, and I am in now way trying to undermine your grief, but this was important to the deceased – just as important as it still is to all of us who contributed – and we are here to make sure you have whatever documentation you need to honor the deceased’s wishes. This is, after all, her last gift to coworker/friend, someone she cared about and respected so deeply.”

    Reply
  111. RAM

    I’ve seen some good scripts on the halvsies situation, so I won’t discount that. But asking for the entire money back seems a bit tactless, even if it’s not the manager’s money to begin with. That family, too, has suffered a tragedy.. and I assume that people in your company also cared for this person to begin with (and given that she was in charge of the donations, she also cared for the people in the company). Telling the family “sorry for your loss.. but, there’s this other situation that we care about more” just doesn’t sit right with me. It’s different than, say, a cable company.. because you don’t expect a personal relationship with them.

    Reply
  112. Gyrfalcon

    I’m puzzled by the reactions that the company shouldn’t ask for the money, or should consider it a donation to the dead manager’s family, or (perhaps oddest) ask to go halvesies (” hi we think it will make you feel terrible if we contact you to ask for this money, so we’re going to go ahead and contact you anyway, but here, have some money which will make up for us making you feel terrible.”)

    I disagree with the assumption that the company is responsible for managing the dead manager’s family’s grief, by presuming that the executor is too grief-stricken to handle executing the estate.

    Express condolences, and explain the situation to the executor and how does the executor want to handle getting the money to the intended recipient, and do they want further documentation from company before doing so.

    The executor accepted the role of executor knowing they were going to have to deal with financial and other business, even while grieving, and promised their now-dead relative that they would be able to handle that. Assume that they want to handle their relative’s affairs as the relative intended, which includes getting this money to the intended recipient.

    Reply
    1. Holly

      I agree with this. To add, the grieving family may even be insulted by the presumption that they would want or demand that half the money their loved one helped collect for a baby should now be appropriated to pay for a funeral. I’d go with the truth – the money was being held in trust by the deceased for a baby and now we need your help making sure it goes to the right place. Most people just want to make things right.

      Reply
  113. Personal representative/CPA

    I am a personal representative of a very messy estate (my father’s) and also a CPA so can speak to some of the mechanics of this. In my state (Washington state), if you don’t have a will then the court appoints a personal representative. If you have a will, then there is an executor. The executor or personal representative manage the affairs of the estate. It takes a long time to get either of these things moving, it took a couple weeks to become personal representative as I had to wait for the death certificate and the probate lawyer to be available. Until I was appointed, I had no access to any of his funds and couldn’t talk to creditors.

    Once I was appointed, I then could talk to creditors and get a separate estate bank account set up. But it was still a couple more weeks to actually get access to the funds in his bank account. So overall it took about a month to be able to even get to his bank account to pay very past due bills. If I was a procrastinator or didn’t know before he died that I’d be the personal representative, it probably would have been closer to two months.

    Those are the mechanics, as the personal representative I very much wanted to know who was owed money. And I made dozens of phone calls notifying various people and creditors that he died, if I’d gotten a phone call or notification about a situation that the OP is describing I would have been incredibly grateful and it wouldn’t have been that traumatic (as it’s one more notification on top of dozens). The sooner the notification happens, the better as I also needed to know how much money I had to pay back creditors with. I would suggest being very patient though and allowing 1-2 months to get payment.

    Reply
  114. Dzhymm, BfD

    This reminds me of something that happened maybe twenty years ago now… there was a small science fiction convention that we’d gone to one year and had a nice time. The following year we registered for the con and paid for the banquet. Two weeks before the con the con chair died and everything was a mess. A lot of data was stored on a computer that nobody could get access to because it was tied up in the estate, as was a bunch of the money. We had to pay for the banquet a second time and we were promised refunds, which we never saw…

    Reply
  115. Katriona

    As someone who lost a parent very suddenly and had to deal with the resulting loose ends, I’m honestly kind of horrified by all the suggestions to just forget about that money or go “halfsies” or whatnot. It’s a tragic situation all around, but that money did not belong to the deceased and the family needs to know about it immediately so that they don’t factor it into their budget (or worse, actually spend it). By trying to avoid a difficult conversation, you may actually be making things worse for them in the long run.

    When my dad died, we had no idea if he even had life insurance let alone how much. He didn’t leave a will or any kind of tidy list of what accounts he had where. The funeral home was willing to work with us but the cemetery required payment up front (and the prices for things kept magically going up…) and even though my mom was the surviving spouse, she couldn’t access his checking account until she got a letter from surrogate court naming her the executor of his estate. Point is, things were extremely dicey for us in that immediate aftermath. We got by on some generous donations from both my dad’s and my mom’s coworkers, but if I found out that money had been meant for another family and only found its way to us through some fluke then I would have returned it without a second thought. I would have strongly preferred to know as soon as possible so that I knew not to count on that money when figuring out how we were going to pay bills and eat for the time being, but there would have been no question about returning it in full. It simply would have been a thing I had to pay at a time when I was actively trying to sort out what things I had to pay.

    Now, if I found out months after the fact that would have made things much worse, because by that point I was pretty confident that I had a handle on everything and was helping my mom budget accordingly. The original money would have been long spent by then, so now not only would we have this other $1,500 debt we hadn’t planned for when going over all of my dad’s final bills, but we would’ve had to find a way to replace the money out of our own pockets just when we thought we had our finances figured out. And again, not replacing it in full would not be an option we could live with, because it wasn’t our money. I don’t want to minimize what a difficult situation this is for you, OP, but in the grieving family’s shoes I’d be pretty unimpressed with whoever put me in that position out of a (misguided) attempt to spare my feelings.

    Think of it this way: the most compassionate thing you can do for this family is to give them the information they need to plan their financial decisions so that they don’t wind up even deeper in the hole than they realized later. Please reach out to them ASAP. And in case I sound overly harsh, I do want to commend you OP because it really does sound like you’re just trying to do the right thing. I’m so sorry for everything you and your coworkers (and their families) are going through.

    Reply
  116. Tempest

    I might be under thinking this but just get in touch with the person most likely to be in charge of the estate, express your condolences. Explain you are also concerned about the money departed manager was holding for the fundraising efforts toward your colleague with the premature baby as the staff are concerned about it going to the intended recipient. If they’re decent folks and you have a spreadsheet explaining who gave what money to back up what you’re saying, I’m sure they will want to give the money back as soon as they’re able. I would be personally mortified no matter what I was going through to keep donations intended for a sick baby. I would endeavor to give them back ASAP personally, so I think we need to assume that good people would find a way to sort this whilst they sort everything else they’re trying to sort for their deceased relative’s estate. Perhaps you could then offer to help in what ever way you can, be that staff volunteering at whatever events they do if you can’t afford any more monetary contributions, in order to help them fundraise what they need toward their medical/funeral expenses. As long as the person who gets in touch has tact and sensitivity for what they’re going through, I can’t see why you can’t just be kind but straightforward about the issue. I don’t think good people will typically want to keep something that isn’t theirs just because they’re grieving.

    If they won’t give the money back, I think you’ll need to write it off as a contribution toward their fundraising efforts and perhaps look at somewhere in the office with a lock you can store this type of thing in the future, or maybe a justgiving page instead of cash donations? I don’t think suing the surviving family members for that amount of money is going to be cost effective or the impression you want to give while they’re going through this.

    Sorry you’re going through this! It’s a hard one to have to deal with. I hope it ends as best it can for everyone.

    Reply
  117. Jess

    Can I suggest letting the family know what happened, invite them to keep the money as the office’s contribution to their fundraising, and the raise new funds for the family with the new baby if the family doesn’t respond to that contact by immediately going “no no here’s the money but thanks”?

    Reply
    1. Gadfly

      Nope.

      “Many people here dug deep to give a donation and no one can really afford to do it again.”

      No new fundraising.

      Reply
      1. Jess

        Well, then the money is effectively gone. It might come in a few months when the executors can access accounts (and when hopefully the family with the premature baby won’t be in acute need anymore). But unless there’s a “let me pay that back from my own pocket” from an executor, it’s just not there now.

        Reply
          1. Jess

            I’m not saying the family with the very, very young premature baby doesn’t need the money anymore, or won’t need it anymore by the time the deceased’s accounts are in order, but if the donation was meant to help them out in an acutely difficult situation, that is (hopefully) behind them if the baby was born in February and if not will (hopefully) be behind them by the time the deceased’s accounts are accessible.

            Things may be much worse than the best case scenario for a 24 week baby – but as far as its original purpose goes that money is still just gone for another two or three months if the deceased’s accounts are just getting sorted out now, unless the executor decides to pay it out of pocket, which it sounds like they’re unable to do.

            And personally, considering the apparent need of the family of the deceased, I think it’s best to consider the money as gone if there isn’t initiative from the family to return it after it’s brought to their attention (which it certainly should be).

            It’s no one’s fault, it’s just awful, but the fact the donations perhaps aren’t going where coworkers wanted them to go is pretty much the least awful thing about this situation, and frankly would be out-awfulled by not taking a very light touch with family of the deceased.

            I understand people dug deep for the family with the young baby, but considering that they have two or three months before the money would have been available in any case, they have another financial quarter or so to think about whether they can do that again.

            Reply
  118. boop the first

    I don’t know what happens when someone dies. At all. So at the risk of coming off as naive af, you’re not the only one who is going to be knocking on this family’s door for money. Sudden death usually means unpaid credit cards, rent, utilities, loans, etc. I see pieces in the newspaper all of the time that say “(name) has recently deceased, if you have a claim against the estate, contact (lawyer).”

    There has to be a way to make a claim without having to call up a sobbing family member. If not, the position in all of these companies/services that does is not a position I would ever want! Yeesh!

    Someone here must have acted as an executor or next of kin, what happened when companies started sending bills? Do you pay them? Do you send the proof and they write it off as a loss?

    Reply
    1. Personal representative and CPA

      I spoke to this in an earlier comment, yes the executor/personal representative are who people send bills to and they pay these bills from the estate’s funds. The listing you see in the newspaper is one of the requirements of the probate process as you can’t close the estate and disburse funds to the heirs until creditors are notified. It can be a hard job emotionally. But being executor/personal representative is something that is voluntary. In fact, it can be done by non family members.

      Reply
  119. Cheryl

    I agree with what everyone has said about tactfully explaining the situation to the next of kin and requesting the return of that money so that it can be donated in the way originally planned. But here’s the thing: the family of this deceased staff member is *also* facing financial difficulties. I think they might justifiably wonder why the office isn’t also making a donation to them! (I’m not saying they should be able to keep that original donation money that wasn’t intended for that person.) I get that the employees might not feel able to to cough up donation money again, but. . . . maybe it’s something offices should keep in mind when they take up collections like this. You never know when the next emergency might come along, and it doesn’t seem “fair” to donate more to one cause than another, simply because they are too close together. I don’t know what the answer is, just wanted to present a counterpoint view.

    Reply
  120. >.

    Would you all have raised money for this co-worker due to what happened to her? It’s hard on their family too, just as it’s hard on the family of the baby. Wow. I honestly don’t know. I would think that this is a lost one, and to just decide that the recipient of the donations has changed from the family of the little one to this co-worker instead. Long-term the baby is going to have other needs that perhaps you all can pool together to meet at some point again in the future. When she’s finally home she may have some struggles or, even just coming together to help with her first birthday which will be a huge milestone for a micro-preemie!

    Good luck navigating this.

    Reply
  121. kcat

    I agree that the best thing to do is to contact the family quickly to resolve this. But I also know I personally would rather lose a large amount of money than be the one tasked with making that call/email. So I suppose the real determining factor is whether someone who feels strongly about it will be the one to step up and make the call. I get that people may be against money they donated going to another purpose, and if so, they should step up and try to rectify the situation (hopefully with support from others).

    I’d also be prepared for the request to be lost in the shuffle. There’s so much to deal with after a death, even if you talk with someone personally it’s one more thing to settle/keep track of.

    What a terrible situation.

    Reply
  122. Anancy

    I will admit to being surprised that people are advocating letting the money go to the deceased’s family. That wasn’t the intent of the donation at all. And I could actually see various other co-workers being annoyed by inaction and contacting the family individually for a refund. Which would be a disaster and worse than if one person approached the executor (and there are great scripts above.).

    Reply
  123. Philomath

    I apologize if the tone in this post is overly emotional, but I am just not able to stay calm on this subject. To my mind, there isn’t even any question about what to do here. It’s not okay to divert other people’s donations away from the cause they donated to. It’s misappropriation of funds. A form of theft. It doesn’t matter whether the recipients of stolen money are themselves deserving of money, it’s still stolen money.

    If you really want to let the grieving family keep that money, you have to get the permission of all the people who donated, because they donated with the intent to give it to the baby. The money was specifically solicited for the baby, and therefore, it’s restricted to the baby. That means both the company and the grieving family could potentially be held accountable if anyone decided to call the cops when they found out their $100 diaper donation never arrived at its intended destination. I just can’t understand how people would think it’s better to let the grieving family and the company risk legal trouble just for the sake of possibly sparing some people extra bad emotions in a time that is inevitably filled with bad emotions.

    If you really feel bad about it, just remember that more than one person has commented that some of us who have actually experienced the deaths of loved ones would really like to hear about our loved ones’ kindness and charity in their last days of life. Asking for this money back has a good chance of actually easing the grief rather than making it worse. Sure, that’s not true for everyone, because everyone grieves differently.

    That brings me to the main reason I’m writing with such strong emotion: it’s patronizing of people to decide for someone else what they should and shouldn’t be told about their own dead relative, just because it might hurt their feelings. Grief does not turn adults into four-year-olds. If I’m the executor of my loved one’s estate, who are you, some random coworker of my loved one, to decide that I am not emotionally capable of handling the fact that my loved one was holding on to someone else’s money? It boils my blood just thinking about it. Why not assume that the executor is a capable person? Even if this conversation does make them grieve more (or whatever it is you’re afraid of it doing), that’s how grief goes, and it’s not your fault. It’s Death’s fault, not yours. So, stop with the patronizing attitude and just compassionately explain the problem, and expect them to be capable people who can both grieve and write a check to a preemie baby’s family at the same time.

    Reply
    1. Philomath

      I woke up and saw I had posted this (I usually type posts and then don’t submit them), so I just wanted to say, I was really responding to the other commenters, not to the original post. I’m sorry if it sounds like I was angry at you, OP, when really I was angry at all the people trying to give you an illegal “out” from the awkwardness of the situation.

      Responding to the original post, I think you should describe the situation to the family as briefly and simply as possible, but touching on the following (not necessarily in this order): 1) the money belongs to the group and is earmarked toward a preemie baby; 2) this is the amount, and we have a spreadsheet record of it if you need it; 3) your deceased relative was instrumental in the effort to raise this money, and this was a wonderful example of the deceased’s kindness and generosity, which we were so grateful for; and 4) we are all so sorry for your loss and regret having to interrupt you while you’re settling affairs.

      Finally, the biggest thing you can do to be helpful to both families is to make sure there is an easily-accessible account ready for the baby’s money (GoFundMe, a donation bank account, or whatever). Then, give the grieving family brief and clear instructions about how to put the money in the correct place. The easier it is to get the money out of the grieving family’s hands, the less it will feel like yet another imposition on them.

      Reply
  124. No more nonesense

    However you handle this, please start by reaching out with sympathy and condolences. Do not even include this issue in your first contact to the family.

    Reply
  125. Sketchee

    I’d still consider money for one sad situation now donated to a second also sad situation and move on…

    Reply
  126. Margo

    I think I would suggest that the company send a letter to the family of the manager.
    Start with condolences, and let the family know that the details of the funderaiser the family have started has been passed on so that colleagues can contribute directly if they wish.

    Then go on to explain the situation with regard to the baby. Explain that Manager had very kindly agreed to coordinate the fund-raising and to write a cheque for the baby’s family, but that you believe that she had not had time to send this. Explain that the sum of $1,500 (or whatever the exact amount is) in her account relates to the money raised for the baby and belongs to that family, and ask that, once they are in a position to deal with her estate and to access her accounts, that they arrange to forward a cheque for that amount, payable to [baby’s family] to [named person at your office], so that the task she took on can be completed.

    Put in something to say that ofcourse you understand how difficult a time this is for her family but ask if they could let you know roughly when they anticipate being in a position to deal with this, so that you can keep the donors and the baby’s family informed.

    I would also suggest that you separately, and before sending the letter, also send a condolence card and flowers , so that the message sent is sympathy for their loss first, and concern over a business matter second.

    Reply
  127. Flora

    I’m very late to this party, but I have a comment that seems to be not what anyone else has said, so.

    If I were grieving the loss of my spouse or child or mother, and someone told me zie had been managing this kind thing and here is the information, I would be so happy for the opportunity to carry on that last task, in my loved one’s honor. I would see this as an opportunity to remember in this very concrete way what kind of person my loved one was, you know? With that in mind, I would have contacted the family and of course first said all the expected condolence words, but then I also would have said, your wife/sister/whatever was in the middle of this very kind and helpful task which I thought you would want to know because I suspect you would want, and she would want you, to complete it on her behalf–would you like to hear about that now or would you like me to get back in touch later on?

    It would be likely they would ask, what kind of task, and on hearing might also be happy to make it happen, and if not, that’s okay — different people are different. But I think it’s worth considering that a grieving party might actually actively WANT to engage with something like this, for the exact reasons people often donate money for naming rights to keep the loved one’s memory alive, and for the exact reasons people allow their loved ones’ bodies to be used to the betterment of others.

    Reply

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