Why Black folks should normalize having an estate plan

Research shows fewer Black Americans have a will or estate plan for when they die compared to white Americans, and the high-profile estate cases of Chadwick Boseman and John Singleton have made headlines. Attorney Lori Douglass, Esq. explains why it's essential to plan for your family's needs following your death.

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It’s not easy to think about life after death, but it’s essential. The high-profile estate cases of public figures like Chadwick Boseman and John Singleton show that success doesn’t prevent a legal struggle over dividing assets.

A recent survey by Caring.com revealed that more than 70 percent of Black Americans in 2021 didn’t have an estate plan. According to CNBC’s survey analysis, more Black people had a will in 2021 than they did in 2020, which could indicate a growing awareness that wills are necessary.

But what if you’re not rich? Is it essential to have an estate plan?

Couple Meeting With Male Financial Advisor Relationship Counsellor In Office
It is important that Black Americans have wills and estate plans in place, said estate attorney Lori Douglass. (Adobe stock)

“People always say, ‘Oh, I don’t have anything.’ That’s not true,” said estate attorney Lori Douglass. “If you have a bank account, if you own tangible personal property, if you have retirement or employee benefits, if you own a home, and most importantly, if you have children, you have assets you must plan for. And if you don’t, you die and the state just takes over the plan for you.”

Continued Douglass, “I think people have a difficult time talking about planning for their assets because we really have just started to acquire assets within the last generation or so. It’s a difficult conversation.”

Lacking an estate plan, Douglass stressed, puts families in a position that’s more uncomfortable than just having a post-death conversation upfront. “That’s a disastrous plan because people have, you know, several children and they all have different desires or different expectations, different financial situations,” she explained.

The recent killing of rap artist PnB Rock brought to light how significant others and children are impacted by unexpected deaths. Stephanie Sibounheuang, PnB Rock’s girlfriend and mother of his daughter, shared on an Instagram LIVE that her boyfriend had no life insurance or will.

Lori Douglass, Esq. is an estate attorney who spoke with theGrio about the importance of Black communities having wills and estate plans in place.
Lori Douglass is an estate attorney who spoke with theGrio about the importance of Black communities having wills and estate plans in place.

“We didn’t have nothing set up. We’re so young, we didn’t plan on death,” she said. “I don’t get no death benefits. I don’t get nothing.”

If a last will or estate planning seems intimidating, there are online services such as Legal Zoom that provide easy-to-fill templates and even include legal services in the package. But Douglass cautioned that there may still be risks to a DIY estate plan.

“I say everyone should see a lawyer for a will or trust or an estate plan,” she said. “That’s because you’re going to be dead when that will is needed. So if you’ve done it yourself or you have it in your drawer or you had friends … it may not be done properly. And now you’re not here to say what was supposed to happen.”

Whether you work through an attorney or take matters into your own hands, just taking the first step to think about what you would want after your death will help you to be realistic about what’s at stake and the planning your family truly deserves.

Watch the full conversation with attorney Lori Douglass, Esq. tonight on TheGrio Weekly at 10 p.m. ET on theGrio’s mobile app on the live streaming feed!

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