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2UrbanGirls: County Offering Free Estate Planning Services to Residents

Read the 2UrbanGirls article here.

Article features Bet Tzedek’s “Leaving a Legacy” program.

 

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County residents are encouraged to take advantage of a free program offering estate planning services through multiple community based workshops.

The Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA) says the goal of the Leaving Legacy program is to protect County residents, particularly those with an asset such as a single-family home by developing a will, trust, estate plan, or other provisions for the distribution of the resident’s money and property.

“The Leaving a Legacy program aims to provide LA County residents with the safeguards to protect their assets and be prepared in advance to provide a seamless transition when loved ones pass away. We especially want residents to know that estate planning is for everyone and these services are free for those who qualify,” said Rafael Carbajal, Director of Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs.

Due to the sensitive nature of estate planning, the County wants its residents to have access to FREE, trustworthy, legal and estate planning services which will assist in avoiding probate, while preserving and growing intergenerational wealth.

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted economic and social disparities in underserved and marginalized communities, especially how unprepared people were for an unexpected death. Before dying from COVID-19, 1 out of 5 Americans did not have an estate plan in place. Developing health care directives and living trusts early can help ease the burden on families. DCBA built out the Leaving a Legacy program in partnership with Bet Tzedek and St. John’s Community Health to ensure that every LA County resident, regardless of their economic status, has the ability to build intergenerational wealth by planning today, for a better tomorrow.”

According to a report from Consumer Reporters April 2022, only 23% of Black Americans and 18% of Hispanic/Latinx Americans reported having a will.

Los Angeles County resident Terrence Franklin, a will is what set his ancestors free from slavery in 1846. In a search for the original document, Terrence uncovered the history and the court disputes that resulted from that document.

Terrence has been an estate lawyer for 30 years and is a Partner with Sacks Glazier Franklin & Lodise LLP, and is a champion for closing the gap for minority communities to do estate planning.

“I’ve been handling fights about trusts and estates since the early 1990s, which is the practice area that my firm specializes in.  So, in our firm, we don’t draft wills and trusts, but we often see situations where problems have arisen because no one did proper estate planning,” said Franklin.

“Often the situations are complicated, and while the amounts in dispute mean a lot to the people involved, many times our firm can’t help cost effectively because the hourly rates for legal fees are so high.  So I’ve always wished there were more Black people and other people of color doing estate planning, to normalize estate planning in underserved communities, so there would be less disappointed people in need of legal services to straighten out property ownership issues.”

Franklin has written many articles discussing the need for estate planning services, particularly in the African-American community, which led to him collaborating with a lawyer on a large-scale program.

“When another lawyer in the trust and estate community, Allan Cutrow read one of my articles, he reached out to me.  And the two of us started talking about how to get more Black people doing estate planning, and getting more Black people to do estate planning.  We connected with Bet Tzedek Legal Services, and UCLA and worked together to create a Fellowship for Equity in Trusts and Estates.  We raised money to fund the hiring of a UCLA grad to work as a Fellow at Bet Tzedek on policy matters, and to help get more training for Black estate planners, and to increase community awareness of this important service.”

Benefits of estate planning include making your own decisions on what will happen with your property which spares family members from the burdens of making those decisions themselves.

“No one lives forever, so taking steps to plan in advance is just a reasonable way to acknowledge that reality.  Furthermore, it is surprising how often people have accidents or illnesses and conditions which leave them disabled.  Planning for the reality of death, and the possibility of a disabling illness or accident, is just a smart thing to do,” said Franklin.

To qualify for the free services through the County you must be a Los Angeles County resident, be low-moderate income and live in one of the high need areas.

To see if you qualify and to sign up for the services visit https://dcba.lacounty.gov/leavingalegacy/.