“Black Heirlooms” has not received any Oscar nominations even though it is filled with award winning lessons about family. The film was made by 32-year-old Amanda Brown, whose grandmother’s long-term illness ripped her once close-knit family apart for lack of long-term care planning.
Profiled recently in the New York Times, Brown’s film is “about the extended uncomfortable, intergenerational conversations that we do not have enough of and that her family did not have until it was too late.”
Vonley and Edna Mae Royal raised eight children together. Vonley had several businesses during life that provided a small inheritance for his wife after he died. Following his death, the Royal children tried to get Edna Mae to talk about how she wanted the estate divided after she died. She proved resistant to such a discussion, however, and so her children backed off. “We didn’t want to give her the impression that we were trying to gain some kind of advantage,” said her son Gary.
Unfortunately, Edna Mae had a stroke in 2009. Shortly thereafter her children became divided on how she should be taken care of, whether or not she could make decisions for herself, and who should have power of attorney over her affairs. The family eventually wound up in court, exhausting any inheritance they might have had on legal fees and dividing the children.
Today, 90-year-old Edna Mae is taken care of by five of her eight children; the other three do not speak to their siblings and rarely see their mother. The inheritance that Vonley and Edna Mae worked so hard to provide to their children is gone. In the film, Edna Mae’s granddaughter Amanda wonders, “Now that the family is divided, what was the point of working so hard to keep everything intact?”
If you have been putting off this type of conversation in your family, we can help. Executing a comprehensive estate plan can be extremely fulfilling, knowing you are providing and protecting an inheritance for your children, making your wishes known and alleviating your family of the burden of guessing the right health care choices for you.
If you would like to learn more about estate planning for your family, we can help. We can also assist you with that all-important family discussion (which could just be one of the most important discussions your family ever has).