The Most Avoided Topic Parents Tend To Disregard Until It's Too Late
Image by James & Carol Lee via Unsplash
Ever get a random text from a friend out of nowhere?
About 2 months ago, I received a group text from a good friend of mine who lives in Kansas. It was sent around 10pm at night, which meant it was midnight for her. It went something like this:
“Hey are you guys available…?”
“I have something very important to tell you?”
Now of course when someone says something like this, you start immediately speculating on what all the different possible things it could be.
In my mind, I had these thoughts pop up…
”Oh maybe she’s moving back to California” or “I wonder if she’s having marital problems” or “maybe it’s something with her kids?” or better yet,”Maybe she’s pregnant!”
So we anxiously hopped on a 3 way call and...
Never in a million years did we expect to hear these words come out of her mouth…
“My husband passed away last week and his funeral is in a few days.”
My friend instantly became a 39 year old widower overnight.
How do you even respond to something like? There’s nothing anyone can say or do. All we could do was sympathize with her and console her the best we could.
Two very important lessons came to me after we hung up. 1) Spend more quality time with your loved ones WHILE you still can and 2) make sure you have plans in place on how your loved ones will be taken care of, especially if you have little ones.
For some of us, the thought of planning ahead for our loved ones after we pass has probably never even occurred and for others, we know it’s important but have yet to put the time and effort into making it happen.
But Why is this so important?
As parents to two little ones, my husband and I asked ourselves, “If we were to both pass away today, what would happen to our kids?” We realized that if we didn’t start discussing how our kids will be taken care of if when we were no longer here, then our kids that we leave behind would only suffer.
And So it was time....time to outline our wishes into a will & trust.
Now there are lawyers who specialize in estate planning and it really is a huge deal, especially if you have lots of assets.
But if you’re like our everyday family, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. There are online services like Legal Zoom that you can use to start this process if you don’t want to go the route of hiring a lawyer.
For some of you, planning something like this is overwhelming. You’re probably asking yourself, “How am I going to know what my kids will need or even what events will happen after I pass?” “What if things change?”
The simplest way to approach and plan this is to keep in mind one thing.
The present moment.
Image by Lonely Planet via Unsplash
Plan for what your kids need now. Plan for what you have in this current moment. Plan with the current people you have in your lives right now. This is something that is not set in stone because as your life changes, your wishes will change.
And every year or every few years, you just update it to what is currently going on in your life.
To give you some context, these were the 3 main areas that my husband and I had a conversation around when we were planning this:
Who do we want to make medical decisions for us in the event that we can no longer do it for ourselves. Typically this would be our spouse but whoever that is, they need to know what our wishes are. Especially around end of life care.
I know for myself, if it ever came down to the point where I was no longer able to take care of myself and would end up being bedridden, I would not want my life to be prolonged. Having this very difficult decision made ahead of time saves my family from having to decide because inevitably, you will have family members who will disagree.
The second topic is going to be around our kids. Who will become their legal guardian? Who will love them and take care of them? Who will make sure to raise them with the same, if not similar values to what we have? How can we make sure their lives continue with as little disruptions as possible? How are we going to make sure our assets are distributed to them in a responsible manner?
Even though they are our kids, there is no way I would want them to inherit any funds unless they are mature and responsible enough to handle it. So we have specific milestones and instructions in place that dictates how and when we want them to receive any financial inheritances.
The third thing is how do we want to handle our assets? Who can we trust that is financially responsible? How do we want our kids to receive their inheritances? We knew we did not want them to receive everything all at once. Especially since they are still in elementary school right now.
We had to decide how we wanted to distribute things to them using different milestones. We also wanted to to be clear that if the kids weren’t in the position to be financially responsible, they wouldn’t see any of it. We also have instructions on using a certain percentage to donate to a charities.
What I ended up doing was I listed out every single asset that we owned onto a single document and included all the information like account info, contact numbers, and login information so that our family would not have to scramble around searching for these things.
An optional thing to do:
Now on top of those 3 areas, I even took it a step further and wrote out a letter to my kids.
It was a very difficult letter to write. Be warned that you may have tears as you write this. It definitely isn’t necessary to do but I wanted to leave my kids with some last words of encouragement and a reminder that we loved them very much.
At the end of the day...
I completely understand why this is a topic that gets put into the back burner. Who wants to take time out of their busy lives to plan and prepare for something that may not happen for quite some time? Who wants to discuss death and dying, especially our own.
We would much rather plan the next vacation or what fun things to do this upcoming weekend. Some of you may even feel like you barely have time to plan for what to eat for dinner the next day, let alone what should happen after you pass away.
But listen, we’re not invincible. Anything can happen to any of us, at any given moment.
If you could care less about what happens to you, your kids, your loved ones, or your assets after you pass, then for sure, no need to spend any brain power thinking about this.
But if you’re a little like me and want to make sure your loved ones are taken care of no matter what, then i would urge you to schedule into your calendar to sit down with your spouse to discuss this.
Remember, it doesn’t need to be complicated. Recall the 3 areas I mentioned earlier. 1) Making sure your healthcare wishes are known ahead of time 2) Decide who you want to be your kid’s legal guardian and 3) Plan out how you want your wishes and assets to be distributed.
I’ll leave you with these final thoughts to consider.
If all your hard earned assets that you have worked your whole life ended up just sitting in their accounts till the end of day, or even worse, the government got their hands on it instead, wouldn’t that be such a waste?
Or if you got into an accident and no longer are capable of making your own decisions, would your family know what your wishes are if they were faced with a life or death scenario?
And if the last person on this earth that you would ever want to take care of your kids, ended up being the one that did, how would that make you feel?