Press Releases

ACTEC Releases Docu-Style Video in Honor of Black History Month


Contact: Pamela Goldsmith, 202.702.2655

Washington, DC – February 9, 2021: In honor of Black History Month, The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) released Wills, Slavery and Probate – The Legacy of Lucy Sutton, a docu-style video spotlighting the story of ACTEC Fellow Terrence M. Franklin’s discovery of a will executed 170 years ago, with distinct bearing on his ancestors’ survival and his existence. The video is the third in ACTEC’s monthly informational series – Planning for a Diverse and Equitable Future, a project of its Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity Committee, funded by The ACTEC Foundation. 

Franklin retraces the path to his discovery of a will belonging to his fourth great-grandfather, John Sutton, and the unforeseen will contest that threatened to keep his family enslaved. After recovering the will from a Florida courthouse’s probate department, he examines the provocative story behind the legal confrontation that led to his ancestors’ emancipation. During his search to find answers about his family’s heritage, Franklin recognized the impact of estate planning on future generations from a personal perspective in the context of protecting and preserving one’s family legacy, identifying the will as a means for his ancestors to push back against racism. Creating the necessary documents with the estate planner as witness, John ensured freedom for Franklin’s fourth great-grandmother Lucy by counteracting racist policies that would prohibit the emancipation of slaves in the states of Georgia and Florida.

“Just as my ancestors used a last will and testament to counteract racist policies that prohibited the emancipation of slaves – pushing back by using this planning tool to take the anti-racist and anti-slavery step of setting my fourth great-grandmother Lucy, her children and grandchildren free, we too can be anti-racist by making intentional choices rather than leaving them up to someone else,” said Franklin. “It is vital to communicate such intentions to protect and preserve your legacy through appropriate estate planning documents.”

Franklin has spoken more than two dozen times to legal associations and history/genealogy groups across the country, sharing his story and examining related trusts and estates issues.

For further information about the Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity series, please visit

About The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC)Established in 1949, The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) is a national, nonprofit association of approximately 2,500 lawyers and law professors from throughout the United States and abroad. ACTEC members (Fellows) are peer-elected on the basis of professional reputation and expertise in the preparation of wills and trusts, estate planning, probate, trust administration and related practice areas. The College’s mission includes the improvement and reform of probate, trust and tax laws and procedures and professional practice standards. ACTEC frequently offers technical comments with regard to legislation and regulations but does not take positions on matters of policy or political objectives.

About The ACTEC Foundation:  The ACTEC Foundation is the philanthropic arm of The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel or ACTEC. The Foundation is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) that offers education to families and professionals and supports students interested in the trust and estate area of the law. Through continued financial support, The ACTEC Foundation offers professional development, scholarships and education for a number of important efforts, including legal education, educational support, public initiatives, legal publications and the student editorial board.

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