Interview With Sharon Baker-Boykin, Owner of Power of 1 Decision, LLC
Hello Our Black Woman Magazine readers, As we celebrate International Black Women’s History Month we are thrilled to introduce you to Sharon Baker-Boykin who is making history by providing vital knowledge to communities of color and beyond as a legal life coach. Sharon is a licensed attorney in Georgia and has been practicing law for almost 40 years.
During her career, Sharon has been in private practice, a part-time magistrate court judge, a prosecutor, managed two state departments; a probate court administrator, and worked in a local county government managing programs during the pandemic.
Some of the topics Sharon is passionate about educating individuals and families about include but are not limited to The Do’s and Don’ts of Making Your Last Will and Testament, Affirmative Steps to Protect Your Loved Ones, Life Insurance and Property and Casualty Insurance, How to Legally Protect Your Assets, Social Security Disability Issues, and Child Support and Family Law Issues.
Our Black Woman Magazine readers please enjoy our interview.
For almost 40 years you’ve been a licensed attorney in the state of Georgia. What inspired you to enter this profession?
Sharon: I was always interested in winning discussions with my siblings, friends, and other family members since I was a child. In my neighborhood in Columbus, GA was the first black attorney in Columbus, GA — Attorney/Judge Albert Thompson. He was truly an inspiration to me. I even was a law clerk in his firm the summer of my first year in law school. After becoming an attorney, I realized how much we as a people do not know. The world is not black and white, it is different shades of grey. Law school teaches you to see an issue from every side of that issue. You never know which side will hire you to advance their position to that issue.
Why is it important for you to advocate for individuals and families to take steps to protect their loved ones?
Sharon: The area of estate planning — preparing for your stuff to pass to loved ones and others — when we have transitioned in life is very important to me. My father, Charlie Baker, died the Friday before Father’s Day in 2018. That was the month of June. Then after his death, I had a family member throughout the country to die in July, August, September, October, November, December, and January, 2019. That was a tough time to go through every month. Then I became the first Probate Court Administrator in DeKalb County, GA in May of 2019. I was intimately involved in the estate planning process from the inside as a family member when not everyone had their stuff in order and from the outside as a Probate Court Administrator and seeing the legal process when people had their stuff in order and when they did not.
My sister, Karen, asked me to write a book to help educate people on the process. Her one requirement/directive of me was to NOT use fancy legal words to explain the process. The average person does not know what those fancy legal words mean but they will not ask for further clarification either. So, I took her advice and wrote a book/workbook entitled, “Help Me Get My Stuff In Order” as my offer to the public to walk them through looking at their stuff and deciding who they would like to have it when they transition.
Also, I remember when I was a young attorney, I had a client to come and see me. She was an elderly woman in her 80s. She brought me 10 sheets of notebook paper where she had listed everything she owned and who she wanted to leave it to. When I say everything, I mean everything. She listed and described dishes, towels, sheets, shoes, clothes, jewelry, hats, purses, furniture, etc. Then she said to me, “Now baby, don’t laugh at me. I just don’t want any mess and fighting when I die over my stuff. Now you put it in legal order for me.” I replied, “Yes Mam, I will not laugh at what you have done. In fact, you are probably one of the smartest clients that I have. You took the time to sit down and put in writing your plan for your stuff.” I say to everyone that It is not how much your stuff cost, it is still valuable to you. It is up to you to decide who gets all of the stuff you have collected over your lifetime instead of letting the state you live in make that decision for you and to make it publicly known that you did not make that decision yourself.
The reason we know of so many rich and famous people who did not make their decision and left it to their state is because the state’s process requires publishing a notice in the newspaper notifying the world that you died without making your decision and giving the world time to file any claims to your estate in the process.
Estate planning crosses all sexes, races, financial levels, and all of us will face this. Unfortunately, it is reported that black people overwhelming do not do estate planning. I want to help educate people about the process and help them make their own decisions about their stuff.
Congratulations on all of your published books. As an author, what have been some of the most meaningful books you’ve written to date and why?
Sharon: There are a lot of us who have a goal to write a book. It can look like a big goal, especially if we have never done so before. But I feel that all of us have experienced life and learned some valuable lessons that can help someone coming behind us on that road called life. Because my background is very diverse, I have written a trilogy of books entitled “Denzel and Sharon Create Their Perfect Life.” Each book has a companion workbook to help the reader deal with the similar issues of Denzel and Sharon. People usually laugh at the title of these books, but I didn’t say that their last name was Washington. But because I have been in private practice, a prosecutor, a Special Assistant Attorney General, a Judge, Unemployment Insurance Tax Chief, Disability Adjudication Director, Insurance Agent, Mortgage Loan agent, Probate Court Administrator, and work in local government, this is a lot of experience that I can use to help someone in some aspect of their life. Instead of lecturing about these issues, I use the story of Denzel and Sharon and their life challenges and lessons to educate others on these specific life issues and how to overcome them.
Again, the estate planning book is also one of the most meaningful books that I have written. I encourage everyone I come in contact with to consider and to write a book or books on what they have expertise in. I have information that I share with them to help get that book out of them, on paper, published, and collect those royalty checks.
As an expert in the law, why do you think Life Insurance and Property and Casualty Insurance are something people shy away from having these important conversations about?
Sharon: Great question. Unfortunately, we as a people tend to only concentrate on the present and not protecting our future and the future of our loved ones. When I mentioned that I suffered the loss of so many family members back in 2018 to 2019, not everyone had their stuff in order. Some did not have insurance to pay for the funeral or to protect their family due to the financial loss of that person’s contribution to their family. Now we have the Go Fund Me world. When I was active in the insurance industry, I would break it down when talking to a family about the need for insurance. When I talked to the couple, I asked how much each person financially and non-financially contributed to their family.
Suppose the husband worked outside of the family. He earned an income that pays the financial bills of the family. Suppose the wife does not work outside of the home, but she contributes to the stability of the family with the children and the husband. That role she plays has a cost that if she was no longer living, how much would the husband have to pay someone else to do what she was doing for the family. This is how I approached how much insurance they needed. Then we would multiply that yearly amount by 10 to determine how much insurance to get. But then, when and if the time came to get the insurance due to the passing of the loved one, the real learning was to invest the insurance and live off the interest from the policy. The interest would match what the person contributed on a monthly basis when they were alive. The interest continues to come because the principle continues to provide the payments. This really gets the surviving person to see how they can still live and grow even when the loved one transitions.
What else would you like our readers to know about you and the work that you do?
Sharon: With all of the things that I have done in my career, I want to be in a position to help as many people as possible who want to be helped. I do what is called Legal Life Coaching. I have consultations with singles, married couples, families, and groups to discuss the legal issues in the areas of their concern. I keep my talk as simple and understandable as possible and I can even refer them to professionals to finalize the Powerful Decisions that they have just made. My company is Power of 1 Decision, LLC. and my website is https://www.legallifecoachsharonbaker.com/. I offer a free eBook on estate planning on my site and you can contact me for help.
What advice would you have for anyone who would like to know the dos and don’ts of making a Last Will and Testament?
Sharon: I would ask them a couple of questions:
First, are you a private person or do you want others to know about your personal stuff?
Second, are you legally married to your spouse or are you just living together?
Third, do you have children and are any of them special needs children?
Fourth, are you a member of any organization and have material from that organization that needs to be protected?
Fifth, do you have a house and whose names are on the title to the house? What will own the house when you transition?
Sixth, do you have a bank account and what will happen to it when you transition?
Based upon their answers to these and other questions, then maybe they are ready to have a more detailed consultation to help them make the Powerful Decision on their stuff.
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