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Vincent2013
Vincent2013, JustAnswer Expert
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 213
Experience:  Qualified solicitor and barrister (non-practising) with 7+ years experience
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if an employee dies and has a desk at his employers office

Customer Question

if an employee dies and has a desk at his employer's office of paperwork, can the employer open the desk, which belongs to the company, and keep company documents and then give personal proceeds to executor of estate, if any or does executor have to open it
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Vincent2013 replied 3 years ago.

Vincent2013 :

Hi, welcome to JustAnswer and thanks for your question. My name's XXXXX XXXXX I'm going to assist you with it.

Vincent2013 :

Following a death, one of the first two things that an executor will do is (amongst others) to secure any property and contact any employer regarding wages or other financial benefits due. Has the employer in your question been contacted by the executor?

JACUSTOMER-bhqyihzq- :

The company is a private family, the employee was part of the family.

JACUSTOMER-bhqyihzq- :

The executor is requesting dividend payments. My question was purely re the desk, what is the answer, I am in a hurry to go out

Vincent2013 :

Who is the executor please? Is this also a member of the family?

Vincent2013 :

Also, what kind of possessions are stored in the desk? Are these valuable possessions? Is the executor saying that you cannot open the desk and return the possessions to him/her?

Vincent2013 :

In ordinary circumstances it would be perfectly acceptable (and usual) for an employer to collect personal property of the deceased, that is stored on company property, in order to send it to the executor.

JACUSTOMER-bhqyihzq- :

It makes no difference, however, yes the executor is a member of the family, how does that change things?

JACUSTOMER-bhqyihzq- :

What I am asking is can the employed open the desk with a company key and take out the contents, very simple question?

Vincent2013 :

The circumstances of a matter almost always have a bearing on the answer. If the deceased had worked for a third party organisation and the executor was a solicitor who had contacted the employer regarding wages and had then been advised of some minor personal property, it would be absolutely typical for the employer to collect this and send it on. On the other hand, if there is valuable property stored in the office of a small family firm and a family member executor is insisting on entering the premises due to concerns regarding valuable property going missing, this could have a bearing. What kind of items are we talking about, please?

Vincent2013 :

And what is the executor asking of you regarding this property?

Vincent2013 :

I just need some visibility on why this has become an issue. As I say, I can see no reason currently why the employer should not open the desk and collect the property for forwarding on to the executor.

JACUSTOMER-bhqyihzq- :

The executor is asking for the contents of the desk.

JACUSTOMER-bhqyihzq- :

It is a private company, large and the contents will virtually certainly not be of value, solely old company papers.

JACUSTOMER-bhqyihzq- :

As a previous request months ago by the executor to clear the desk was not followed up

JACUSTOMER-bhqyihzq- :

The company now wants to empty the desk and return the contents to the executor.

JACUSTOMER-bhqyihzq- :

I assume company papers can be retained by the company, do these belong to the company?

JACUSTOMER-bhqyihzq- :

If anything is of value it will of course be given to the executor.

Vincent2013 :

Then any personal possession should be boxed up by a representative of the company and sent to the executor. All company property can and should be retained.

Vincent2013 :

Absolutely.

JACUSTOMER-bhqyihzq- :

The widow, executor is not a member of the co. therefore the company papers I assume are just filed or disposed of by the company

Vincent2013 :

Yes, in accordance with company policy on file destruction. I do apologise for the questions! I just wanted to make sure that I have all the relevant information.

Vincent2013 :

Can I clarify anything for you?

Vincent2013 :

If I've been helpful please do take a brief moment to rate my answer and very best wishes.

JACUSTOMER-bhqyihzq- :

can you answer my further question

JACUSTOMER-bhqyihzq- :

What is the situation if on a death bed a key is given to someone?

Expert:  Vincent2013 replied 3 years ago.

Hi Karen,

 

Specific rules have developed with respect to deathbed gifts and issues relating to these gifts can (depending on the circumstances) be quite complex.

 

In the broadest terms, for a deathbed gift to be effective it must have been made by the donor when he believed he was going to die and "dominion" to the subject matter of the gift must have passed. Broadly, dominion does not need to be physical possession of the subject of the gift but there must be sufficient evidence that control of it has been surrendered to the donee.

 

Dominion can sufficiently pass by providing the key to a receptacle (such as a desk or a box) where the subject matter of a gift is stored. Further, "partial" dominion can also be sufficient; meaning that if the key alone does not grant unfettered access (for instance, because the receptacle is on third party property and there is another layer of security), this will not necessarily be fatal. However, the donor would need to have suffered a corresponding restriction at the time the gift was made.

 

I hope that answers your question.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Does that mean the company where the desk resides can open the desk with the key they possess and empty the contents in order to give the beneficiary anything of value, and to obtain company papers that belong to the company?
Expert:  Vincent2013 replied 3 years ago.

If the employer has had a request from the executor to forward on any personal posessions, then the company should simply access the office/desk that was used by the deceased employee and send such items to the executor (or arrange for their collection). From the facts above, I can see no need for the ex-employer to get involved in any question of whether or not a deathbed gift is valid. It is an issue for the executor, the beneficiary/ies and possibly the court.

 

Further, if company property is also stored in the relevant office/desk, it is up to the company what they do with it. They can leave it there, retain it elsewhere or destroy it in line with the company's obligations/policies regarding file retention.

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