Lori Anne Douglass, Esq.
Partner, Trusts and Estates; Matrimonial and Family Law
Moses & Singer LLP
New York, N.Y.
Lori Anne Douglass, a partner in Moses & Singer LLP’s Trusts and Estates group, worries that the African-American community loses massive amounts of wealth in generational transfer. “If we, in fact, did our planning, estate administrations and generational transfers properly, we would really become a very wealthy minority community — probably in one generation,” she tells The Network Journal.
Douglass, a former New York County assistant district attorney and Syracuse University College of Law graduate, cum laude, also is a member of her firm’s Matrimonial and Family Law group. A 2014 edition of Syracuse Manuscript magazine for Black and Latino alumni pointed out that she was “the only African-American partner in trusts and estates in a major New York City law firm.” Douglass entered the trusts and estates practice area in 1993 after leaving her position as assistant DA to “hang out her own shingle” in Westchester County, where she could be closer to home and start a family. Buoyed by the success of the probate and estate administration advice she soon found herself giving to friends, she took a New York State Bar Continuing Legal Education Course (CLE) in basic estate planning. She recalls being stunned to find no African-American or other minority attorneys in the course. “But I know Black people who are going to die,” she recalls thinking at the time. With that, she made the decision to focus her practice on what she saw as an area where she could help the African-American community.
In 2000, Douglass joined Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman P.C. as its trusts and estates associate. Six years later, she became a partner in the same practice at Kurzman, Eisenberg, Corbin & Lever LLP. She joined Moses & Singer at partner level in 2007, continuing her love affair with “T&E” in litigation, business succession, private and public foundations establishment, and “strategic planning to assist clients in maximizing wealth preservation.”
It could well be said that the notion of “generational transfer” means more for Douglass than the passing of assets from one generation to the next. Her father, former New York State Supreme Court Judge Lewis L. Douglass, greatly influenced her career choice. In 1960, Judge Douglass became only the third Black attorney to be appointed assistant U.S. district attorney in the Eastern District of New York. Retired from the bench in 2006, he is the immediate-past chair of the Franklin H. Williams Commission on Minorities that champions racial fairness in the New York Court System. “He has been with me every step of the way of my legal career,” says his daughter. “As wise as my dad is as judge, he is an even better dad.”
Aspiring trust and estate practitioners must learn the practice and eschew discouragement. “Learn the law related to trusts and estates so that you can effectively prepare estate plans and also run efficient estate administrations,” she advises. “Building a practice concentrating in estate planning can be slow going, but educating our community about wealth preservation, accumulation and transfer is so important that it’s worth the hard work.”