According to LexisNexis, nearly 70% of African Americans do not have a will or other estate plan in place. That compares to 55% of all American adults.
“They don’t want to make an estate plan because that is admitting they are going to die,” says certified financial planner, Paula Boyer Kennedy. “The danger of not doing estate planning is that the state in which you reside will do your estate planning for you. All the assets that would have been distributed under the terms of your will are now controlled by state laws. So ask yourself: How happy are you, generally, about the decisions your state makes?” she adds.
About six years ago, Derrick McDaniel, an eldercare expert and author of Eldercare, The Essential Guide To Caring For Your Loved One And Yourself, and his wife Marlow, a marketing executive focusing on diabetes products, decided to cast their fears aside. They had just welcomed their first of two daughters into the world. Soon after, Derrick had to fly out of town for business. “I’m an only child, and my wife has only one sister, who is not married. There’s not a lot of family to take care of our daughters if something happened to us. I really thought about that when I knew I was getting on that flight,” said McDaniel.
“Usually there is a triggering event,” says Barbara Green an estate planner and attorney at Green and Gross P.C. in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I see young people, (like Derrick and Marlow), about to take their first plane ride without their children. Sometimes it’s that people have a special needs child who is approaching adulthood and they realize what they have to do for their child. Sometimes, people get near the age of 50 and realize that they should create a will, she adds.”
Where to Begin
Whether you go to a professional estates attorney or use software like LegalZoom.com, you want to begin by identifying your assets. Gather your most recent statements for bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and any insurance policies you may have. Also, make sure you know where any homeownership deeds or automobile deeds may be. If you have a business, make sure you are clear on the value of your business. You will also want to identify any assets such as jewelry or heirlooms that you want to be part of your estate.
In ‘Whom’ You Trust
One of the most difficult things about coming up with an estate plan is determining who will be in charge of your health, your affairs, and your children once you move on. “Sometimes it’s making those decisions that prevent people from moving forward,” says Green.
The most important decision you will make if you’re a parent is who is the guardian of your children, should you and the other parent pass before the child is an adult. If you don’t make this decision, a stranger, a judge who knows nothing about your family or friends, will. It’s also important to be sure to have enough life insurance to cover your child’s costs if they are not covered by your assets.
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