Planning for the End - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

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0717_WB-Lori-Douglass

Douglass

Too often, people delay writing a will because they believe they are too young, or they think that their estate is too small. But estate planning experts say anyone with children or anyone who owns any assets –  whether of monetary or emotional value — should have their affairs in order in the event of their unexpected demise.

“You don’t know when you are going to die. You have to create a will if you want to legally make sure that your property passes to the loved ones you choose,” says Lori Anne Douglass, a partner at Moses & Singer L.L.P., who specializes in estate planning.

A will is a legal declaration of a person’s wishes regarding the disposal of his property or estate after death; it may also include details on the guardianship for minor children. Unfortunately, drafting a will is something that many people fail to do.

Often, it is the property with the least financial value but the most emotional value that can cause strife between heirs, says Bradley A. Thomas, a member of the Washington Bar Association, one of the nation’s first black law groups.

Without a will, when a person dies no one can access the money in the deceased person’s solely owned bank account, transfer ownership of their vehicles or houses, or collect stock or liquid assets, says Douglass, who is corporate council for Earl G. Graves Publishing Co.

When a person dies without a will they are called intestate and their property will be distributed according to law. “[When you draft a will] you are taking as much control over your affairs as you can, rather than letting the state control them,” says Thomas.

Basic wills can be created for about $70 on websites like Nolo.com and Legalzoom.com, but both Douglass and Thomas recommend hiring a lawyer who specializes in wills and estate planning. An attorney can ensure that the will is less likely to be contested and minimize the time and expense of the probate process, which involves the collection and appraisal of assets, payment of debts, and dispersal of assets, according to the deceased’s wishes.

“It would not be out of ordinary that the will for an estate like Michael Jackson’s would be more than $10,000,” says Thomas. “For the average person who does not have that kind of estate a will might cost from $600 to $2,000.”

Here are four steps Thomas and Douglass recommend when preparing to draft a will:

Take an inventory of what you own. Determine exactly what are your assets, your debts, and providing you have more assets than debts, decide who you want to leave your assets to, what and how much of the assets each person will receive and consider your charitable intentions, says Douglass. Update your will regularly as you gain or lose assets or as your family situation changes. Every time a new will is drafted, it should specifically revoke all prior wills.

Select a person you trust to carry out your affairs. The person you choose to be in charge of your estate is called your Executor, or Personal Representative. The role of the Executor is to make sure that the original will is filed with the court and to oversee the probate process. If a person dies without a will then the court will determine who should be in charge of your estate.

“Pick someone who is honest, will follow through and will take care of all of the final matters,” says Douglass. The Executor is also responsible for filing and paying all taxes for the deceased, including but not limited to estate and income tax, explains Douglass.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.


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