Michelle Fox, NBC News, February 11, 2022
When actor Chadwick Boseman died, he didn’t have a will. Neither did recording artists Prince and Aretha Franklin.
Each time the news broke, there was surprise that such notable names hadn’t made estate plans. Yet, estate planning isn’t as common as experts argue it should be, including among Black Americans.
Overall, 33 percent of U.S. adults have a will, according to Caring.com’s 2021 wills and estate planning survey. Meanwhile, 27.5 percent of Black Americans have one, up from 25.9 percent in 2020.
Despite the growth, Black Americans could miss out on the largest wealth transfer in history, said Brickson Diamond, co-founder of Black House Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at creating new opportunities for the Black community in the film world.
Over the next 25 years, an estimated $68 trillion will be transferred from U.S. households to heirs and charity, according to an analysis of high net worth and ultra-high net worth markets by consulting group Cerulli Associates.
Without a plan in place, probate costs could be 3 percent to 8 percent of the value of an estate, said Diamond, a board member of Gentreo, an online estate-planning platform.
To be sure, Black Americans’ median wealth is less than 15 percent of that of white families in the U.S., according to the Federal Reserve’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances. White families had a median wealth of $188,200, compared to $24,100 for Black families.
The median Black household wealth was forecast to hit zero by 2053 in a 2017 report by Prosperity Now and Institute for Policy Studies. Then, the pandemic hit, disproportionately affecting Black communities and accelerating that timeline, said Portia Wood, a Los Angeles-based estate attorney who focuses on Black, Latino and LGBTQ families.
She suggests finding a culturally competent attorney to help you, one that understands the specific issues Black Americans face.