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  • Writer's pictureShani Majer

Three Tea Sets and Why They Matter

I remember the moment that it all clicked, the second the penny dropped, when the shoe fell, or any other cliché that describes when an idea, a vision comes together.

I was working through an excel spreadsheet when my mother called. I spoke to her distractedly, my focus on the pivot table and the formula I needed to extract some seemingly useful data.

“What do you think of the tea set?”

I shifted the phone and cradled it between my ear and shoulder. The Vlookup formula was broken.

“Sure, love it.” It was sterling silver, came with a sugar bowl and creamer and I would use the set to serve Her Majesty if she ever popped in for a cuppa.

“Great, because it’s been sitting in the garage for the last 30 years and would love for you to have it."

I pause, confused, mid-Googling Col_index_num. “Mom, I just saw the set in the dining room last week.”

Turns out, my parents have three tea sets: Silver, Bone China, and Junk. I was referring to one, my mother another.

You know that feeling when an icy hand with cold, bony fingers grabs your chest? It doesn't happen often, but when it does, you then understand that phrase, because a frigid grip squeezes your heart and you're left frozen, trying to understand what the hell just happened.

And when I finally exhaled I got it.

I then understood the stories of families torn apart over Dad's golf clubs or by infighting over Grandma's engagement ring. I could see siblings, cousins, slip into resentment and hatred over a pair of costume clip-on earrings, or a favorite Kangol hat.

Because had our conversation ended one sentence earlier, I would have resolutely stated that Mom had promised me the silver tea set.

So I could easily see how well-meaning, good family folk, who really do (mostly) like each other can slip into conflict and drama, when delegation and communication about allocating items in an estate is left vague, incomplete, or inconsistent.

I now knew how memorabilia, photos, and trinkets with only sentimental value were important to everyone. And when I interviewed people they voiced concern that their instructions about their estate's items were outdated, unfair, or unclear. I saw how worried people were that they were leaving their loved ones, the children they had dedicated their lives to provide for, to raise with love and care, to squabble over stuff.

We consulted with over ten Trust and Estate lawyers, including litigators, and they confirmed my suspicion that single, widows/widowers or divorce/es were the clients most worried about their estate items.

And that makes sense. When I (not married) asked my T&E attorney how to document who should get my jewelry and watches, he told me to take pictures of the items, make a list on paper or in a Word document. I couldn’t help but wonder (silently, I try to be polite) really? We’re sending cars to the moon, but we haven’t figured this out yet?

We wanted to solve the problem that would break families apart, ours and others’. We wanted to reduce unnecessary friction and strife between friends and loved ones. We wanted to give caring, loving and committed people who worked hard to provide for their loved ones today, the tools needed to do right by their family and friends forever. And we wanted to share this, so a time that there is so much tension, stress and discord, we might bring a sliver of peace.

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