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Make a Will, Initiative Implores

Monday, April 19, 2010

by Carla Hinton, The Oklahoman

A new church initiative aims to encourage black families to protect their assets by making wills and becoming proactive estate planners. Several local congregations are participating in Make a Will Emphasis Sunday as part of the effort.

Participating churches include Prospect Baptist, Allen Chapel AME, Avery Chapel AME, Fairview Baptist, Christ Temple, Greater Cleaves CME, Progressive Baptist, Quayle United Methodist, Church of the Living God-Pillar and Ground of Truth, St. John Missionary Baptist and Wildwood Christian.

The Rev. Lee Cooper, initiative chairman, said the effort is a partnership between the churches, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, the Association of Black Lawyers and law students from the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University. Stanley L. Evans, a retired Army colonel who is now assistant dean of OU’s College of Law, is leader of the initiative’s legal team.

An attorney attending each of the churches coordinates his church’s Make a Will effort.

Cooper, senior pastor of Prospect Baptist, said the participating churches will share the Make a Will message Sunday through sermonettes, announcements, information packets and bulletin board fliers. He said his sermon will focus on passing on wealth to the next generation. He said statistics show that more than 82 percent of blacks don’t have wills or trusts. The initiative, a pilot project of the Southwestern Urban Foundation, hopes to change that.

"We don’t really think about what we actually possess,” Cooper said. "We’re trying to get people to think about what that looks like.”

Cooper said the attorney coordinators at each church are working to ensure interested congregants fill out an assessment that will be submitted to people involved in a Make a Will Workshop set for April 24 at Langston University-Oklahoma City. He hopes participants will leave the workshop with a completed will.


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