As estate planning attorneys, we have the privilege of spending time discussing what is important to people. So often, the focus is on financial and tangible objects that are purchased or acquired that reflect substantial amounts of money. I agree that the racial wealth gap is a real concern for the Black community and the ineffective transfer of assets from generation to generation is a significant contributor to this growing gap. There is a racial health gap as well. The coronavirus pandemic helped to shine a light on the disparity of health to people of color.
There is no valuation measure for great health. We know, however, that poor health is costly. Medical care is one of the greatest reasons for bankruptcy in this country. Managing our health should be one of our greatest priorities. The return on the investment is indeed immeasurable.
Just as financial health has a community impact, health has a community impact. When the community has a positive financial position, there is capacity to build and enhance the community for growth. When the community is experiencing a negative financial position, there is a drain and pull with an emphasis on survival. The impact is a scarcity mindset that often compels members of the community to retract.
When there is negative health of a community member, the community is affected and required to direct resources to manage and support the community member through the time of poor health. When there is great health, there is capacity to build and work to uplift others.
Each one of us has the responsibility of managing our health, as no one can take that responsibility for or from us. This investment will serve us individually and collectively as we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. We rise and fall together.
I encourage each of us to add to our individual and community focus our collective health. As an integral part of estate planning, we discuss what happens if you are unable to care for yourself. A concern that I explore with every single person is how would someone else know if she or he had become incapacitated. If you live alone, what “lifelines” exist to signal to loved ones that there is something amiss? What check-ins are established that will support intervention when needed to thwart potential mental or physical illness progression?
During the past year, we have had to endure greater isolation as we sheltered in place during the pandemic. This ability to work remotely has been both a blessing and a curse. The blessing for many was the ability to save on gas prices and save hours in commuting. The curse was that there was no one who could conceivable check on your well-being or absence.
Our lives are interconnected. Our well-being is interdependent. We must be thoughtful about how we can most effectively live together in a way that strengthens our community. Checks and balances must be an integral part of the total plan to protect and promote a life of well-being, financially, physically, spiritually and mentally.
Good health planning is a significant part of legacy planning. We must build strategically to impact multiple generations.