OAKLAND (KPIX) -- More than 70 percent of African Americans do not have a will or other estate planning document, according to a Caring.com 2022 survey. An Oakland attorney is changing that.
When Verleana Green-Telusca opened her law practice in Oakland, she decided to specialize in estate planning, trusts, and probate because of what her own family endured
"My grandmother, she didn't have any documents in place, not even an advanced health care directive. And we didn't know basic things, like whether she wanted to be buried or cremated," Green-Telusca said.
Years earlier, when Green-Telusca was 13 years old and her maternal grandmother passed, there was confusion as well.
"My aunt, she sold the house, and we don't know where any of the money went," the Oakland attorney said. "So I said, 'You know what? I want to see if I can make a difference so that families don't have to go through the family fighting.'"
Green-Telusca began to educate her Oakland area community, mostly in churches, community centers and schools.
She has invited other attorneys and financial advisors to join her in providing more than 60 free estate and retirement planning seminars in the last eight years.
"We noticed that there were a lot of African Americans who did not have a trust, who did not have power of attorneys, and advanced healthcare directives," she noted.
People attending the seminars learn how to secure those documents. She also explains how to pass down grandma's house from one generation to the next, and plan ahead so relatives don't end up losing money in probate court.
"The state of California says you have to pay an attorney a percentage of your estate. That money could've gone to someone's college education," Green-Telusca explained.
Ann Johnson came ready to soak up Verleana's words of wisdom at a recent seminar at East Bay Church of Religious Science.
"She made it very clear this is something we have to get a handle on," Johnson said.
Rev. D. Jacquelyn Edwards calls Verleana a role model.
"There's that kind of commitment, passion, and it's authentic," said Edwards.
The Oakland native never tires of hearing from someone who's taken her advice and protected themselves and their property.
"Pure joy," Green-Telusca said with a smile. "Pure joy."
For offering free seminars to help people get their financial house in order, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Verleana Green-Telusca.
Note: Green-Telusca's nonprofit, the Estate and Retirement Planning Specialists, presents its next free seminar on Saturday, June 18, 2022, at the Pan-African Wellness Festival at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater.
And a bit of trivia: every week KPIX 5 features a student who's risen about challenges to succeed. Green-Telusca was the second Students Rising Above scholar 25 years ago.
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