Expert Interview with Matina Agio of The Inheritance Muse

Expert interview with Matina Agio of The Inheritance Muse in Athens, who shares her insights on the dynamic, emotional and creative forces involved in managing the process of inheritance.

Picture of Carla Pohli - CMO - ArtRatio

Carla Pohli - CMO - ArtRatio

Matina Agio

Matina Agio is a personal inheritance consultant.  Her work inspires a deeper perspective on inheritance – beyond the legal and financial.  She provides niche counselling, facilitating her clients- often in midlife, to resolve inheritance-related dilemmas, manage their possessions and create a meaningful legacy. Through her signature method – THE INHERITANCE MUSE METHOD ™, she addresses both the tangible and intangible aspects of inheritance & wealth.  Matina’s clients include art collectors, affluent individuals and family office members around the world.

C: Welcome Matina. There are so many facets to The Inheritance Muse. What excites you most about your work?

M:  First and foremost,  I would say the transformative power of inheritance and its ability to act as a catalyst in our lives. This fascinates me.

There are many ways this is played out.  A parent passing away.  A family house that has to be sold. The challenge of separating possessions amongst siblings.  The clutter of accumulating heirlooms and belongings.  An unexpected gift of a valuable art piece. 

Life-transitions like midlife, divorce or widowhood and other situations as wealth transfer and succession.  Inheritance can trigger existential, emotional and ethical or practical issues.

Many people fail to grasp the wider & deeper scope of the inheritance incident, focusing only on the outer circumstances and practical issues.  Even with the best legal, financial, psychological or technical advice, many important aspects regarding inheritance are often overlooked- and of course, the opportunity that lies within.

Matina Agio Belgium house

C: Why is it so that people miss seeing the opportunity in their inheritance?

We tend to think that inheritance is about tangibles.  Most of us will inherit things, artefacts, family heirlooms, property, estates, art collections, shares and other wealth.

But we also inherit intangible things like values, beliefs, experiences, physical and emotional attributes. Furthermore, inheritance is not just a one-off event, but a continuous flow of receiving since the day we are born. We are receivers from day one of our lives.

When inheritance is approached from the perspective of sincere inquiry, as “What does this inheritance really mean?”, or “ What kind of feelings, pain or memories does it trigger?”,  then, so much more can be revealed. 

We are able to find better solutions with co-inheritors, overcome practical difficulties and resolve dilemmas.  As good custodians, we need to know that an inheritance is never just a sum of its parts. It is much more. 

It’s what I like to call the ‘gift-within-the-gift’.

Ethos Pathos Logos

C: Tell us more about your unique method, the INHERITANCE MUSE METHOD™ and its connection to Greek philosophy. How does this apply to inheritance?

The method was inspired by the Rhetorical Triangle of Aristotle, which is characterised by Ethos, Pathos and Logos.   But in the INHERITANCE MUSE METHOD™, it is used for decision-making and going deeper into a dilemma. 

This is a three-fold process, which can be equally applied in simple cases, such as figuring out something simple as if one should sell or keep an heirloom dining-room set,  helping an aging parent downsize or buying out a sibling. 

Equally it applies to larger issues like identity, personal purpose, succession, generational wealth transfer and personal legacy.  The approach is the same.  

I usually like to begin with Ethos. 

Ethos, addresses the fundamental core values, beliefs & ideals that characterise us and guide our  life. Based on these- consciously or unconsciously, we tend to make most of our life decisions.  Usually, inheritance comes around our mid-life.  That is an excellent time to review one’s core values and create self-alignment.  Truth be said, it is from a position of self-knowing, that we can make the best decisions and chart our course of action- no matter what the issue at hand. 

Pathos, addresses our emotional relationship with things, people or situations.  In view of inheritance, this can be about deciding on your mother’s Meissen porcelain, a piece of art or the fate of a grand estate.  Our possessions may be physical, but our experience of them is emotional.  Things carry memory and potential.  We project our aspirations and fears upon them.  Many times, we are not aware of the true meaning of something until we acquire it, about to lose it or have to fight to save it.  We can ask Pathos-related questions such as : “What are my deeper feelings concerning this inheritance?”,  “Does it bring up fear, anxiety or concern?”,  “Do I feel a related sense of gratefulness, excitement, happiness or guilt related to this?”.

And finally, Logos refers to the factual reality which is related with something.  In the case of inheritance, it may involve, sorting-out, preservation, market prices, co-inheritors, taxes, legalities, provenance issues, etc. – all which need to be taken into account.  I like to address Logos  last. 

The first two, Ethos and Pathos, determine so much on an essential level.  They set the stage for how Logos will be played out.  Very much like the ‘Observer Effect’ in physics, where the observer affects his reality.

Emperor dining table set in Russia with candles and table sets

I was recently referred, by an exasperated fine art dealer in London, to one of his lady clients.  The dealer had given her an appraisal on a couple of important 17th century period vases she had inherited.  It was evident that the lady wanted to part with them, but at the same time, there was a sense of sadness, guilt and uneasiness about it. She was pendling to and fro, not committing to the sale. 

The vases belonged to her mother’s family.  In the end, the vases were auctioned.  But the process also proved extremely insightful for the lady in question, where a parallel unaddressed issue was resolved, in relation to her mother.  After this, she was able to let them go and move on. 

So you see, this is a holistic approach, which can lead to better solutions and personal breakthroughs.  We need to look at a situation from many sides, so we can establish the true meaning an inheritance has in our life and the possibilities.  The ultimate goal is that our decisions create fulfilment.

C: Can you elaborate on what you mean by intangible inheritance?

Intangible inheritance is that part of our wealth, which is often overlooked.  It is a living, fluid essence composed of intellect, values, insights, memories, traditions, passions, fears, knowledge and wisdom.  It was formed through the experiences, sacrifices, actions, struggles, triumphs, of those who came before us. 

We receive through our DNA, our parents, our ancestral lineage and cultural heritage.  This is our ‘gold’ that no matter what happens, it cannot be taken away- as it is within us.

Our intangible inheritance is unique to each of us.  It is often overlooked because it is not measurable- like assets or things.  It is invisible yet affects so much.  I have seen this over and over again.  Not being able to see it, means we are cut off from our source.

In my case, I came to understand the value of my intangible inheritance, later in my life when both my parents passed away.  I unexpectedly co-inherited a historic residence & antiquities collection – which needed a major sorting out.  ​My mother who was the main collector never documented anything- nor made any succession plans, so it was a grand mess. 

But apart from the loss, the most challenging part for me, was to make sense of it all.  I had to curate the collection and join together the pieces of our family story, as we had decided to open the home to the public.  However, I soon came to realise that this isn’t just a simple sorting out of tangible things or documenting one’s family history.  There was a lot more here.  It was like discovering a treasure chest!

When you immerse yourself  into your ancestral reservoir, you emerge with an essence, so much more valuable than you can ever imagine.  It has the power to empower and transform your life, as it did in my case.

Vintage tray with leaves on black stone background

C: You place a lot of emphasis on the placement of heirlooms within the home. Why?

Heirlooms are things with living memory, with the ability to empower us and connect us with our family story.  If we choose to keep them, we need to be conscious custodians.  Their story needs to be shared but also to be evolved.  I don’t fully agree with simply holding on to an heirloom as in the motto, “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” I believe we also need to add our part of the story to our heirlooms.    

I encourage people to take their heirlooms out of the drawers, bring them up for display and use them.  

C: Use the silverware, use the china.. 

M:  Yes! Absolutely!  Talk about the portrait on the wall, bring out objects seasonally and create new traditions with them, design your spaces putting a focus on them.  If they are more fragile,  place them behind glass (hopefully Smart Glass)  to be viewed if not used- but keep them close.  The power of an heirloom can never be underestimated.

Take for example this bracelet with the two lions, which my mother used to wear. It is simple, made out of silver and lapis lazuli.  I don’t know the reason why she wore it- perhaps it reminded her of the Mycenaean Lion Gate.  But it never came off her hand.

When she died, I took it on and wore it constantly.  I have found my own definition of what it is.  For me, the lions represent the gate-keepers of my values.  Sometimes, when I look at my hand, I see my mother’s hand (we have the same hand physique) and connect inwardly to her.

Some years ago, a friend of mine moved to Athens and asked me to consult her with the placement of some of her heritage furniture.  She also had a colourful Coptic textile collection, given to her by her father, who was very close to her, before he had passed away.

She had kept the textiles in a safe storage for over a decade.  I advised her to bring them out and make them the focal point of her dining room theme.  This decision gave her so much relief.  It was an opportunity to interact with her father on a daily basis. as well as enjoying the beauty of the pieces with her guests.

C: Last question. How should one approach their inheritance?

With gratitude and creativity.  Inheritance is a gift given. 

We don’t have any control over what will be given or its form.  But we do have control over how we will receive it.  The true value of an inheritance can never be determined by its monetary value.  It will be determined by what one does with it.  Some people inherit masses of wealth and do nothing with it and vice versa.  

I like to think that an inheritance will empower our own story and legacy. I see many people do not value what they are given. 

Yes, sometimes we are given the greatest of gems, in bad packages.  Our parents are not perfect- often there is pain. But let us remember, that inheritance is a fluid thing.  We can change the narrative and pour this valuable, golden essence into the shape of our unique vessels- and form the life we want.

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