Black Family Inheritances and Incarceration: What You Need to Know
As a parent, you undoubtedly never planned for your child to wind up incarcerated; however, living with a child in prison is a reality that some parents must face. African Americans face this reality at a disproportionately higher rate than other parents. As of July 2020, African Americans represent 38.2 percent of prisoners incarcerated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons yet they only represent about 13 percent of the American population. In 12 states more than half of the prison population is African American. Along with the emotional toll it takes on a parent when a child is locked up, many parents are also faced with trying to continue to financially support their incarcerated children as well as the grandchildren left behind when a parent is sent to prison.
How Jail Affects the Family
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has forced America to recognize the disparities that exist in the legal system. African Americans are arrested and imprisoned at a significantly higher rate than whites and Hispanics. This is especially true for African American men. In 2018, there were 2,272 inmates per 100,000 black men compared with 1,018 inmates per 100,000 Hispanic men and 392 inmates per 100,000 white men.
When a parent is imprisoned, children are left to be raised by a single parent, another family member, or placed into the foster care system. Not surprisingly, a child whose parent is incarcerated will often develop behavioral and emotional issues as well as suffer academically. For too many of these children, this perpetuates a viscious cycle that eventually leads to their own imprisonment. For African Americans dealing with a child in prison, a family support system is crucial for both parents and children to help them cope with the situation.
Protect Your Child’s Inheritance Despite Jail
Parents often fail to include an incarcerated child as a beneficiary in a Will or trust based on the belief that the state will seek payment once the child is released from prison. That belief is not entirely accurate.
If you have a child who is incarcerated, a Living Trust prepared by an attorney can clearly state your wish to assets to that child once you pass away. Moreover, provisions within the trust agreement can protect the assets designated for your child despite your child having been to prison.
In California, Wills are required to be probated. Consequently, if you don’t have a Living Trust in place, your estate and your family will be forced to go through probate. That puts the gifts you intended for your child at risk because during probate the state can collect repayment if your child was once an inmate. A Living Trust that includes Special Protections is often the best way to prevent the state from taking your child’s inheritance.
If you have a family home or other assets that you want to pass down to your child who is (or was) incarcerated, creating a Living Trust may be the only way to protect the gifts you want your child to receive. Failing to plan for the legal obstacles that could get in the way of your child’s inheritance could prevent your child from having a fighting chance at rehabilitation and creating a better life after incarceration. Black family inheritances can be passed down generationally. Contact Collins Law Group to determine if a Living Trust is right for you and your family.