Who Gets Grandma’s House? – ‘Have A Plan Or the State Will Have A Plan For You!’

In 1997, the movie Soul Food, featuring Vivica A. Fox, Vanessa Williams and Nia Long, brought the Joseph Sisters to life on the silver screen. This cultural phenomenon delves into the intricacies of family dynamics, focusing on the sisters’ profound connection to their matriarch, Mama Joe. Her influence, both in life and beyond the grave, shapes their journeys and the collective narrative of the film, providing a relatable context to the importance of estate planning.

One of their most pressing decisions was determining how they would pay the remaining medical bills and who would care for their mysterious, mostly reclusive Uncle Pete. At one point, the decision to take care of it was to sell the “big house,” ultimately taking a familial staple out of the Joseph family lineage. This highlights the real-life implications of estate planning and its impact on family dynamics.

This dynamic is more pressing for Black families because they lack access to or perceive a lack of access to wealth-building tools. Florida-based attorney Ashley Gantt explains that keeping Grandma’s house doesn’t have to be tedious, stating, “Estate planning is a crucial step for families to secure their assets and protect their legacies.”

One of the biggest misconceptions about estate planning is that the cost is out of reach. That is not always the case. Gannt’s firm offers payment plans for families and is aggressive about doing the pre-work because going to Probate Court after death can be costly.

“A major misconception is that estate planning is too expensive. That’s not true,” Gantt stated.

She continued: “What’s more expensive, in comparison, is not having a plan and paying a fee upfront rather than waiting and putting me on retainer later, which will come with additional fees.”

Death is inevitable, but one cultural universal truth is that many Black families do not like to approach the topic. It makes people look mortality in the face and avoid a paramount conversation that can save future headaches and cement family legacy and generational wealth.

“I always say, have a plan, or the state will have a plan for you. And that may not be what you want,” Gantt emphasized.

Waiting for the “right” time may never come. Being proactive in estate planning helps keep Black money in Black families, fortifying the communities the culture has worked so hard to maintain. It is also essential to not regulate estate planning for older adults. People should take advantage of planning for the future regardless of their age or status.

“Dispel any notions that you’ll have time to do it later. So, contact someone, and your estate planning professional will help you and guide you through thinking about everything you have,” Gantt said.

Laws regarding estate planning vary from state to state. Attorney Gannt suggests that families do their research to ensure they are operating within the proper legalities of their jurisdiction. In addition to knowing your area-specific laws, Gantt suggests working with professionals keen on Black culture.

“Get a professional that understands the nuance of your situation. This is a sensitive topic, especially in our community. Everybody’s not going to get that. It’s not just a house. What about your bank accounts? What about all this other stuff that people don’t think about? But contact the professional, and then you can create a plan,” Gantt explained.

Like in the movie, when Mama Joe worked hard to put that home in the family, your Big Mama and Pop Pop worked just hard. Act now to ensure you have everything in line for your aging family members and yourself.

Updated: May 31, 2024 — 3:01 pm