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Brooklyn Panel To Discuss 'The African-American Inheritance Crisis'

 'The African-American Inheritance Crisis' event on June 4 will highlight issues of estate planning, inheritance and family financial matters, organizers said.
'The African-American Inheritance Crisis' event on June 4 will highlight issues of estate planning, inheritance and family financial matters, organizers said.
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DNAinfo/Camille Bautista

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — $51,283.50 — that’s what it took to tear Amanda Brown’s family apart, according to the community organizer and filmmaker.

When her grandmother was hospitalized with a stroke, relatives became divided over her care and estate, partly due to planning discussions they failed to have, she said.

Conversations about money, inheritance and assets are often uncomfortable, even among relatives, but it’s a necessary dialogue needed to ensure family legacy, she said.

Neighborhood organizations will gather this June to raise awareness about estate planning, the country’s wealth gap, and how these issues affect African-American communities.

The June 4 event kicks off with a screening of Brown’s documentary, “Black Heirlooms,” in which she chronicles her family’s experience.

“The whole crux of the project is just to get people talking, make something that was — especially in communities of color — very taboo and secretive, to make people more comfortable with these conversations,” Brown said.

"Finances is not something that is openly or widely discussed, and maybe it should be.

“Family disputes over estate or elder caretaking is like an epidemic — most people experience it or know somebody who has had this experience, but circumstances are unique.”

The free event, titled “The African-American Inheritance Crisis,” is hosted by Bedford-Stuyvesant-based Flateau Realty Corp. and local non-profit Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, and aims to engage and inform the community, organizers said.

In a changing neighborhood where deed theft and property fraud are major concerns for residents, discussing estate planning and inheritance is crucial, according to Molly Ornati, senior financial counselor at Restoration.

“There’s fraud, gentrification, and predatory processes that are going on and preying on elder individuals. People are having their deeds signed away right out from under them and it’s really a tragic problem,” Ornati said.

“So showing the film and having a panel, and sharing both sort of the personal experiences as well as having representatives of the community that offer a variety of resources around these issues was important.”

Following a Q&A with Brown, a panel of real estate, legal and financial experts will discuss a range of topics and provide services and solutions for attendees.

Families need to have these dialogues on a micro-level, organizers said, but similar conversations need to happen in partnership with the community as well.

“My hope is for people to walk away knowing that it’s important to have an understanding of your family values, and a conversation about how values, family estate or community wealth is going to be preserved and passed to future generations,” Brown said.

“What are we passing on to the next generation of our neighborhood?”

June’s discussion will also touch on the country’s wealth gap, according to Al Florant, marketing manager at Flateau Realty.

“'The African-American Inheritance Crisis' is part and parcel of a larger issue, which is the black and white wealth gap. When you look at factors that drive that gap, it’s income, education, debt, inheritance,” Florant said.

The organization cited a recent study that found in 2011, the median white household had $111,146 in wealth holdings, compared to $7,113 in black households and $8,348 for Latino households.

“We are embedded in the community, we see what’s going on around us, and we want to make a difference,” Florant said. “There’s a big need, and there’s no better time than now.”

The African-American Inheritance Crisis” will be held on June 4 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the community room of Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, 1368 Fulton St.