By: Attorney Shira Truitt
Estate planning is an important aspect of financial planning that involves making arrangements for the distribution of a person's assets after their death. It is a crucial step in ensuring that one's wishes are carried out and that their loved ones are provided for. However, estate planning documents can also reflect and perpetuate biases, particularly if they are not carefully considered and reviewed. In this article, we will explore the ways in which implicit bias can manifest in estate planning documents and discuss strategies for eliminating it.
What is Implicit Bias?
Implicit bias refers to the unconscious attitudes and stereotypes that shape our perceptions and actions. It is a natural and universal phenomenon that can affect the decisions we make and the judgments we form, even when we are not aware of it. In the context of estate planning, implicit bias can manifest in a number of ways, such as in the distribution of assets, the selection of executors and trustees, and the inclusion or exclusion of certain individuals in the planning process.
The Effects of Implicit Bias in Estate Planning
Implicit bias can have significant consequences in the estate planning process, especially when it comes to the distribution of assets. For example, if a person's estate plan is based on the assumption that certain family members are more responsible or capable than others, it can result in an unequal distribution of assets that may not align with the person's true wishes or values. Similarly, if an estate plan is based on stereotypes about certain groups, such as the assumption that women are less financially savvy or that LGBTQ+ individuals are not as worthy of support, it can lead to unfair and discriminatory treatment.
Eliminating Implicit Bias in Estate Planning
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to eliminate implicit bias in estate planning documents. Here are a few strategies to consider:
Seek diverse perspectives: Estate planning involves making decisions about the distribution of one's assets and the care of their loved ones. It is important to consider the perspectives and needs of all relevant parties, including family members, friends, and community members. Seeking diverse perspectives can help ensure that the estate plan reflects the values and wishes of the person creating it and avoids perpetuating biases.
Review and revise documents regularly: Estate plans should be reviewed and revised on a regular basis to ensure that they align with the person's current wishes and circumstances. This is especially important if there have been significant life events, such as the birth of a child or the death of a spouse. Reviewing and revising documents can also provide an opportunity to identify and address any biases that may have been present in the original plan.
Consider using a neutral third party: Working with a neutral third party, such as a mediator or financial planner, can help ensure that the estate planning process is fair and unbiased. These professionals can provide objective advice and guidance and can help facilitate discussions and negotiations among family members and other stakeholders.
For additional information regarding implicit bias in estate planning documents, see my video at https://youtu.be/I3rGa_uSKsM. Please be kind, it was the early days of recording video—pre-Covid!
Estate planning is an important aspect of financial planning that allows individuals to make arrangements for the distribution of their assets and the care of their loved ones. However, estate planning documents can also reflect and perpetuate biases if they are not carefully considered and reviewed. By seeking diverse perspectives, reviewing and revising documents regularly, and considering the use of a neutral third party, it is possible to eliminate implicit bias in estate planning and ensure that the process is fair and reflective of the person's true wishes and values.
"Implicit Bias." Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Ohio State University, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, 2021, kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/research/impl
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