An afternoon of free financial advice drew approximately 25 women to the Wesley Chapel Public Library April 28 as the Decatur/DeKalb chapter of Coalition of 100 Black Women hosted the first seminar in its My Sister’s Keeper series.
Although the series was prompted by “research that shows that the average net worth of African-American women in 2010 was $5,” according to chapter President Norma Johnson, the seminars are open to any who choose to attend.
Among the April speakers was retirement specialist Paulette J. Smith, who spoke from experience on the need to have an emergency financial kit. “Before my family evacuated New Orleans fleeing from Hurricane Katrina, my son videotaped the interior of our home and I photographed the outside. We left so quickly that when I arrived in Atlanta I was overcome with the fact that I had very little documentation with me,” she recalled.
“Imagine my relief when my mother presented me with a package I had sent her two years before with the words written on the front, ‘Open in the case of my death or if I am in trouble.’ You see, I had actually obeyed the advice I give my clients and forgot that I had sent her the package.”
Smith recommends sending a relative or close friend a packet that includes such documents as a bank statement, an investment statement, real estate titles, prescriptions, birth certificates, passports, photocopies of driver’s licenses and of all credit cards. She added that the package should include personal photos taken throughout one’s lifetime. “That’s just to make you feel good, if you lose everything else,” she said.
With a laugh, she added, “Send it to someone who lives in another region of the country. It won’t help to send it to someone in Lithonia. If a disaster hits Atlanta, they’ll probably be having trouble, too.”
Felicia Johnson, an attorney who specializes in personal injury, spoke on what people should do before or after an accident to assure they are properly compensated for such expenses as medical bills and lost wages.
“I advise people as to what they should include in their insurance policies,” Johnson said. “Some item that makes very little difference in the premium can make a big difference when you have a claim.”
Johnson also advised choosing an attorney carefully following an accident. “I’m not putting down the lawyers you see on television,” she said, “but they may not value you as a client if they don’t see the potential for a huge settlement.”
Another attorney, Celeste Brewer, specializes in family law and gave advice on divorce, child support and proof of paternity. Always seek the services of an attorney, she said. “And always choose one who specializes in your specific problem. Lawyers these days are like doctors—everybody specializes,” she said.
Brewer said that family law cases can become very emotional and people may either “accept anything just to get the case over with” or make unreasonable demands because they are angry. Lawyers, she said, help people sort through what’s fair.
Sheryl Barnes, also an attorney, spoke on wills and estate planning. The goals of estate planning, she said, are to minimize costs, taxes, complications for loved ones and the time needed to dispose of an estate as well as to control disposition of assets, maximize inheritance for heirs and provide for minors or any other heirs with special needs.
“The next generation will lose more than $2 billion annually to the probate process,” Barnes said, quoting AARP statistics, “and conservatively 4 percent to 10 percent of every estate will be consumed by probate unless proper steps are taken.”
Barnes added, “Some people think that estate planning is only for wealthy people. It is for everyone who wants to be sure those they leave behind get what they want them to have.”
The next seminar in the series is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25. Details will be announced later.