Community: Part I; Be Radical! How a Will Helps Tell Your Story




• an account of past events in someone’s life or in the evolution of something. •


Did you know that writing a Will is a way to ‘tell your story’ and record your place in and among your community? Because a Will is recorded in public records when you pass, becoming a part of traceable history – a way of marking your time here – a Will doesn’t have to be limited to those owning things and having money and then passing those things or assets on to another family member. Here’s how writing a Will can help tell your story:

For women, ancestors of enslaved individuals, and other communities of color, having a Will can be a radical act.  For a large part of our country’s history we were, ourselves, another person’s property and we were, ourselves, kept from accessing the law to assert ourselves and our rights; including our right to own property or hold assets in our name. When looking back and tracing our heritage, African Americans and many women have to look to Wills to find a record of their families. The fact that we were property of others means that instead of hitting a dead end on our family tree because of this less-than-whole status under the law, we may find evidence of those that came before us in the Wills of those that listed us as property. Recognizing the reality of this time in our history is painful, and can also be empowering – connecting ourselves to our people helps to root us in our story; the tale of what came before.

When thinking about who and what may come after us, writing a Will can put context around your story of belonging to a particular time in history and a continuing line of family and friends.  There are many limitations on realizing full citizenship in society today – many of us feel disenfranchised from access to education, healthcare, opportunity. One way that is available to all of us regardless of gender, race, family status, religion, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status to ensure that our community knows who we were, what we valued, what faith we practiced, who we loved, what we want our children, grandchildren, and relatives to know about our life and life lessons, is to write a Will.

The first part of a Will is a publication statement and for all of us, this is where we can offer our words of purpose, claim a faith-based practice as our own, make a declaration as an artist, tell our community who we were and what we were all about.  This opportunity exists whether you have significant financial assets or if the totality of what you own is a collection of books and music that are your world.

I encourage all of us to be bold! Let’s tell our own stories, in our own words, and use the permanent and public statement of a Will to achieve this piece of justice for our community and in each of our lives.


(Coming soon…Part II; Impacting Your Community: Practical Reasons to Have a Will)

*necessary legal disclaimer (because us lawyers love them!): I share this information by way of starting a conversation, being a responsible and interested community member; nothing in this post is intended as legal advice, so please do not take it as such. Thank you for taking the time to read this post.*

Comments ( 1 )
  • Carol Baish says:

    You should see my Great Great Aunt Lottie’s will — I still have a copy. It’s quite interesting, written in, I think, the 1940s. She skipped over a couple of generations to leave a house that she owned to my Dad (we think it’s because he was the only one to visit her — she was a sort of cranky lady). Anyway, the house meant a lot to my parents — and to the rest of us — in their last years.

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