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Generational Wealth: Why African Americans Don’t Take Estate Planning Seriously and the Danger of It

Generational Wealth: Why African Americans Don’t Take Estate Planning Seriously and the Danger of It

Estate planning is undoubtedly a vital bridge to generational wealth but it’s often overlooked by many, especially African Americans. The question is why?

Recent data from Northwestern Mutual, a life insurance and financial services giant, reveals that only 33% of African Americans have discussed long-term care options with their parents, and a mere 31% have articulated their wishes regarding inheritance and future estate plans.

Alarmingly, the majority believe that preparing a will is best deferred until the age of 43, despite financial advisors recommending that this crucial step be taken as soon as one turns 18.

The Stakes at Hand

The implications of this oversight are significant. African Americans stand to miss out on a staggering $68 trillion transfer of wealth by 2047, largely due to inadequate estate planning.

With over 70% of African Americans lacking a will, the community is at risk of perpetuating a cycle of financial instability.

The Essence of Estate Planning

Estate planning is not just about distributing assets posthumously; it’s about ensuring that one’s financial legacy is preserved and passed down through generations. Without a proper estate plan, individuals risk their estate being entangled in legal disputes and familial conflicts, potentially eroding the very wealth they seek to protect.

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Bridging the Gap

Dexter Wyckoff, a managing director at Northwestern Mutual, highlights that many in the Black community view estate planning as a luxury reserved for the wealthy.

This misconception, coupled with a reluctance to engage with financial advisors, has led to a trend of assets being passed “up” rather than “down,” leaving little for future generations to inherit.

The Path Forward

Wyckoff emphasizes that estate planning is both affordable and essential, not just in the event of death but as a proactive measure to secure financial stability. He advocates for a combination of financial and estate planning to break the cycle of wealth erosion and to foster the growth of generational wealth.

Key Benefits of Estate Planning

Asset Protection: Safeguarding accumulated wealth from potential risks such as lawsuits and creditors.

Facilitating Wealth Transfer: Ensuring a smooth transition of assets to children and subsequent generations.

Homeownership Continuity: Helping heirs assume homeownership without legal probate issues.

Timing and Review

While estate planning can be undertaken year-round, Black History Month serves as a poignant reminder to initiate or review one’s estate plan. Regular updates, especially after major life changes, are crucial to maintaining its relevance and effectiveness.

The Financial Impact of Inaction

Neglecting estate planning can lead to a lack of control over asset distribution, emotional turmoil due to unplanned asset allocation, and the potential diminution of the estate’s value through probate.

It’s a scenario that jeopardizes not just the present but the financial future of subsequent generations.


For African Americans, estate planning is not an option but a necessity. It’s a tool for safeguarding not just individual wealth but the financial well-being of generations to come. By embracing estate planning, the community can take a significant step toward unlocking the full potential of generational wealth.

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