Funeralcare Magazine

FuneralCare Magazine
October 2015

Getting that estate sorted without drama

The massive job of organising an aunt’s estate got Lacey Graham thinking about how many other people are faced with what is often a very difficult and fraught task.
And so when the estate was sorted out, she set about devising the concept of Twinset and Pearls Estate Clearance Specialists – where she advises and guides people through the process to make it as stress-free as possible.
“My aunt had no children so she left various items to eight different God children, and as executor I had to liaise and manage the disbursement to all and then empty the house of all its contents,” says Lacey.
“She was a collector, a geneologist and a great sentimentalist, who documented every meaningful event in her life, so she had amassed a real house full.
“It was a massive job and it struck me that there must be people – both executors and family – who really struggle to deal with not only a death but with the very difficult and fraught job of what to do with their possessions.”
At first, she found that getting a new concept off the ground was a struggle, especially working out how to explain the service she was offering while working on a limited budget. But she says that after a slow start the idea is starting to catch on.
It works like this: Twinset and Pearls can be called in at any stage of the estate process – from formation (by helping to ascertain the value of items and getting things in order), to managing the Will (acting on behalf of the estate as an independent body, including disbursement to beneficiaries through to full house clearance).
“I act as a broker for the estate, and when selling items I endeavour to gain as much value for the estate as possible. I have a database of dealers and collectors and use auction houses when necessary.
“I also have a knowledge of antiques and collectibles from years of collecting, so I aim to get a good return back to the estate of any items left. I have a team working on call – some with knowledge in specialist areas such as art, books, pottery/ceramics, textiles, jewellery.”
Since the business has been operating she’s heard all sorts of horror stories from people’s experiences.
“There seems to be a knee jerk reaction and unnecessary pressure, sometimes by family members, to ‘just get rid of everything’. This inevitably results in items of value – sentimental or financial – being lost and often, and regrettably, a major falling-out between family members.
“I have come up against siblings who struggle to agree on what to do with an estate. Often one wants to step back and pay someone to help and the other hates the idea of spending money.
“There is often mistrust and suspicion of motives involved. Months can go by with nothing happening and bitterness growing. I aim to diffuse the situation and remove the stress, and more often than not my fee will be covered by the sale of the unwanted items.
“For the sake of long-term family relations it is a small price to pay.
“My background is in Television where I have had to work with many different groups of people to gain a consensus. I believe I have the skill-set to be the essential independent person to guide people through the process and make it as stress-free as possible.
“Not only are you dealing with a house full of memories but also with the family dynamics on top of the grief.”
She says her knowledge of antiques and collectibles can help a great deal.
“It can be very disappointing for people to hear their Queen Anne Suite of furniture has little value. Antiques and collectibles follow trends like most things. I believe it’s a good time to be buying unfashionable furniture because you can’t beat good quality artisan furniture and it’s time to shine will return. That’s my sales pitch to buyers, anyway!”
She has approached funeral directors and has received a good response.
“I believe funeral directors are often looked to for advice from people experiencing bereavement.
“They may see a family struggling with the reality of being left to deal with a house full of memories they have no knowledge of value or what to do with, and frequently the unfortunate friction between family members. I hope they will see Twinset and Pearls is a service they feel confident to recommend.”