June 29, 2021
In 2015, Earl Graves, Sr. publisher of Black Enterprise, penned an article entitled, “Lack of Estate Planning Puts Black Wealth at Risk”. In it, Mr. Graves expressed his increasing alarm at the numbers of his African American friends who died with no estate plan or will in place. Now one could argue that the estate of the publisher of the premier black wealth magazine is much more significant than many of us, but the reality is that we spend considerable time and resources planning for births of children, weddings, parties and other celebrations, but very little planning for an illness or our ultimate death. For example, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Association, only 8% of hospice users are African American, and the National Center for Health states that as few as 13% of African Americans have a living will.
In February 2021, the African American Mayors Association adopted a resolution designed to empower communities, particularly black communities to engage in end-of-life planning. The resolution seeks to address the disparities that exist in the Black communities when faced with planning including healthcare directives, wills, and end-of-life options.
If anything should have spurred us into creating an end-of-life plan, this past year should have been that catalyst. None of us have been left unscathed during this pandemic and many of us have either experienced loss directly or know someone who has lost someone through COVID-19. In addition, systemic health disparities particularly in Black, Brown and poor communities have led to other factors of death. In the final analysis it matters not how or why but they are gone leaving in many instances families to improvise what their loved ones would have wanted at their end of life.
At the height of the health crisis, hundreds, if not thousands of people left their homes for care and never returned. Many more did not even make it to the hospital and even when they succumbed, the system was so overwhelmed their bodies could not be properly prepared for internment. Given the numbers of people without advance care directive it is safe to presume that many also died intestate (without a will). So those with no health directives were put on ventilators indefinitely. And even worse many people lost numerous family members putting a financial strain on those responsible for handling the affairs of their loved ones with no insurance or other monetary plan in place for their demise.
It is imperative that our affairs are in order to ensure that our wishes carried out in the event of a sudden or accidental death or terminal diagnosis where we have months to live. It is also imperative to have a plan in place, to alleviate family discord and potential legal challenges. As we grapple with these losses we are left to imagine our own mortality. The AAMA resolution aims to empower, encourage and help educate the community on end-of life planning that acknowledges individual beliefs, customs and cultures. And while the vast majority of us do not have the Rockefeller pedigree, a bank account, designer shoes and handbags, jewelry and other assets we possess essentially constitutes an estate.
Mr. Graves argues that for those of us who have spent our lives acquiring wealth through our personal and professional achievements, to then die with no will or plan in place makes no practical sense. We must not let procrastination and fear be impediments to our end-of-life planning. Let us plan for the inevitable and leave our families and friends without burden. It is time to take action now.It is imperative that our affairs are in order to ensure that our wishes carried out in the event of an accidental or terminal diagnosis where we have months to live. There are several documents that each person over 18 should have in place that forms an end of life plan. Contact Heirloom Estate and Legacy Preservation now to seek assistance in getting your affairs in order.