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There’s one thing that everyone has in common: death will occur at some point. Though a somber thought, it’s important that people, especially African Americans, get comfortable about this idea, in order to adequately prepare. Why? Those who fail to adequately prepare for death– can have disastrous and expensive consequences for the loved ones left behind. Despite the importance of estate planning, only 42 percent of American adults have wills, according to a 2017 Caring.com survey. Worse, nearly 70% of African Americans have no will or estate plan in place according to Black Enterprise. Compared to other communities, African Americans may have more to lose by not planning ahead. What’s at stake? The ability to transfer generational wealth, among other things.
For example, the Caring.com study also found that lack of estate planning is one of several factors that lead to the loss of land in the African American community. In the absence of a will, the land becomes vulnerable to partition and sale. When this happens, families lose property and wealth built by previous generations.
Dying intestate (passing away without a valid will) not only blocks the transfer of wealth, but it can leave a crippling financial burden to your family. Who is going to pay your funeral costs? The average cost of a funeral can run at an average of $10,000, but if your family doesn’t have that extra cast lying around, it can cause an incredible number of headaches for your loved ones.
Unfortunately, the burden is not just on African Americans for not properly planned for the future. The reasons for lack of estate planning is rooted in the DNA of this country. In Heir Property In The African Community: From Promised Lands to Problemed Lands, scholar Roy W. Copeland concluded, “The failure of African Americans to prepare wills is likely attributable to distrust of government, a belief that their children will ultimately inherit the land and reluctance to cause division within the family.”
While many think only wealthy families need wills, every family needs one. Estates of all sizes can cause arguments. A good guideline to remember is, “small items can lead to big fights.” While families can (and do) fight over money, items with sentimental value such as clothing, jewelry, and the like are equally likely – and often more likely – to be the subject of an argument. A will can end this fight before it starts.
Unfortunately, many Black people believe that estate planning is only for the wealthy. But it’s incredibly inaccurate. Lawyers charge by the hour, so a will for a complex, multimillion-dollar estate will be expensive. This isn’t the reality for the majority of African Americans (unless you’re Oprah or Beyoncé), so having just a few assets such as a home or a few personal items, will be surprisingly affordable.
Ultimately, the peace of mind that comes with knowing that there is a plan in place for your loved ones is priceless, no matter the cost. It’s time to break generational curses in the African American community so that people get more comfortable in putting these in place to ensure the future of generations to come. To set your financial goals and make a plan, take the Currency Conversations Pledge today. Commit to yourself!