This is an incredible story - please stick with us here!
First some background. We have a client, Constance, who has been with us for a decade. She and her sister Melinda grew up in a larger suburb of New York City and played in the house next door to their grandparents.The two girls became staples in that house, a house with 4 older children who never married but who doted on them. So much so, that Constance & Melinda were named as beneficiaries of the estate which had been passed down through the generations until it stopped with the 4 siblings.
One day we received a phone call from Constance, worried that her sister Melinda had been “borrowing” from the neighbor’s estate. The tension was palpable. We were instantly worried that this would cause a significant rift in their relationship.After having an honest conversation with Melinda, we discovered that she had been working very hard taking care of the two remaining siblings (now in their 90s) and working on closing the estate of the most recently deceased sibling. The work she was doing was tremendous, and she was unable to perform her own job and thus needed money to pay off some debt she had accumulated.She took a loan, intent on deducting it from the proceeds she was due to receive from the estate. Sound fishy to you?
Well, WE were thrilled.For one thing, these two elderly people were getting help and Melinda was the saint that was helping them. For another thing, Melinda had a perfectly good reason to loan herself some money, but we knew how to help Melinda in a more constructive way that would make everyone happy.
What happened was this…
We poured through all the aspects of the elderly siblings’ situation, and uncovered the seemingly unreal: this family was hoarding. They squirreled their money away in various forms including shares of IBM stock – in certificate form – from the 1960’s, US Savings Bonds from the 1930’s and actual cash (in envelopes, loose, or in plastic bags).But rather than put it into vehicles for savings and growth, they hoarded it all in their home in the suburbs, which was also cluttered floor to ceiling with hundreds (thousands even!) of purchases over the years. We sent in the troops, including one of our favorite people professional organizer Maria Pascale (www.getorganizedwithmaria.com). It turns out that after cleaning out the home, a condo in New York, and multiple storage units, the estate of one of the remaining siblings, Victoria, was worth approximately $2 million. But it was wrapped up in plastic garbage bags or shoved in corners and never dealt with.
We created an incredibly thorough to do list and worked with Melinda to turn in the US Savings Bonds, sell the houses, deposit the various stock certificates, sell some antiquities, etc.To do all this, we told Melinda she must pay herself a salary and that it was well deserved. Her sister agreed, and this way, Melinda did not have to do anything in secret. This saved their relationship and allowed Melinda to focus more on getting the elderly siblings into a facility that was more than just habitable. They are now in a place where they are well cared for and are leading a healthy, active life. Now Melinda can focus on her own health and business.