Most Parents Don't Do This and They Should
If you’re at all like me you go about life with a positive attitude, enjoying each day, doing your best to balance working hard and savoring the moments.
And then one day someone mentions something important that is missing from your life plan and before you know it, signs are showing up everywhere to remind you of that missing thing you need. Suddenly you’re ridden with anxiety over making that thing happen as soon as possible, and it’s all you can think about.
Well, that thing I was missing, was a will and an estate plan. It was always something I thought I would need one day, when I was older, more established, and had significant assets and savings. My husband and I work hard for everything we have, but we never thought we had enough that warranted this measure of protection. But then it was brought to my attention that in the event of my husband and me passing, my two-year old son would be left unprotected, and ultimately his future and well-being uncertain. That did it for me!
We waited a long time and worked hard to bring this little boy into the world, and the last thing we would ever want to do would be to leave him vulnerable or his needs not met. Just the thought of leaving him without a guardian, a ward of the state that our family would have to fight for, brings an ache to my heart and a knot in my stomach.
I suppose this is why so many parents don’t think to take this measure to protect their children and their future inheritance. It is not because parents are careless, it’s because it’s a painful thought to endure, but absolutely a necessary one. The truth is an estate plan is the best thing you can do for your child or children in the awful event that you’re no longer with them. An estate plan will ensure they have everything they need, an executor to oversee the money that you leave them, your assets and how they are handled, and most importantly, a guardian to love them and care for their needs as you would.
This realization came to me just as my husband and I were preparing for our first trip away, just the two of us. It should be an exciting time; we’re going somewhere warm and tropical, after all. Instead, we have this looming worry to gather our life’s affairs into a pile of papers in time to leave town and my son with what he needs, should something happen. Not exactly what you’d expect to be feeling before a long awaited vacation.
The process was surprisingly simple, once we agreed upon the important decisions that will be the foundation of our plan. Who would be the guardians for our little boy? And if they were no longer capable, who would be the successor guardians? Who is the best person to handle the finances? Who will have the best interest of our family in mind to be the administrator of the will? And what about our beloved dog? We want to provide for her care as well. There were a whole list of questions provided to us by our lawyer that made this conversation between my husband and I a lot easier to handle and less to argue about.
A few weeks later we met with our estate planning lawyer and went through each of these important items. Each of our wills listed the other spouse as the executor and recipient of the estate, and then our son, should both of us be gone. Our estate plan was laid out before us, taking into account all of our concerns and hopes for our child’s future, including several back up plans that put my mind at ease, just in case our first choices were no longer available.
We created a memorandum to dictate where our most precious belongings would go. At this stage in our lives we don’t have a lot that is of monetary value, like expensive works of art to bequeath, but I do have my wedding jewelry and a few household items that I’m sentimental about. I wouldn’t want these items to end up in an estate sale, so the memo is a nice way to guide our executor through the process of distributing our belongings to those we leave behind. What is also helpful about the memo is that it is easily updated with little expense, unlike the will which would require another visit to the lawyer’s office.
As our assets grow and hopefully our family too, we’ll revisit our estate plan again, likely with the help of a financial advisor to ensure we are making the right financial choices to protect our assets and minimize taxes so we can provide the most wealth for our family’s future.
All the worry and sleepless nights of thinking about this are now behind us. My husband and I were able sign all the documents and make them official, before heading out of town to enjoy our adult time, catching up on us, knowing that in the awful event we didn’t make it back from paradise, our little man would be taken care of without question for his future.