by Denise Berger
Planning for your children’s lives should you die prematurely does not make for light dinner conversation. Can you imagine: sooo, who did you name for your guardian? Oooh, good choice, I went with so and so. Did you fill out your health care proxy yet? Working on it, working on it. Frankly, this is a topic that is neither enjoyable nor a subject that people want to face. For After all, we are “the Mom” are we are invincible! We stay up late, get up early; we have pulled all-nighters for our newborns; we rally for occasions which we once thought we couldn’t possibly stomach; we teach our children about stranger danger and safety; we get through sick days, cranky days; we face our own personal stresses and while doing our best to build positive experiences in our children’s memories.
So, it is surprising then to learn that nearly 70% of parents with minor children don’t have wills? And, of those who have the document prepared, 31% make one of six mistakes… oversights or errors that can alter the course of what you want for the care of your children or the funding you establish for them. Staggering, isn’t it? Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to wear dirty underwear, in case you have to go to the hospital?
Alexis Martin Neely, founder of the Family Wealth Planning Institute and a network of personal family lawyers springing up in the USA , states in her easy-to-read book, Wear Clean Underwear , “Everyone needs to understand the dangers of leaving their money and children in the hands of the government, inept family members, or unprepared friends. It’s bad enough your children could lose their parents, but don’t compound their pain by leaving them without a loving, informed guardian of your choosing and the money for which you’ve worked hard to secure.” Alexis points out that the average person tends to view family wealth planning as something for only the rich and famous. On the contrary, it is a critical obligation of being a responsible parent - whether you have $1,000 or a million dollars (and anywhere under, over and in between). Why? It isn’t just about the money.
Family wealth planning is not just about having a will, and it is not something that we women should take for granted that someone else (i.e., the man of the family) is handling. Too many women put this issue in the “finance” bucket and “on the husband’s plate.” However, how many more moms than dads know the kids’ schedules and routines; what friends are around to pick up the children from school in an emergency; who should call whom if something happens to you? (Not to knock the guys, but the bulk of child care still rests squarely on women’s shoulders.) So, why would we wash our hands of one of the most critical care-giving responsibilities? The answer is: we shouldn’t. There are numerous resources online, such as kidsprotectionplan.com, that can help with your planning. You will learn that if you do not have a guardian named, the decisions about your children and your money are left to the State Court. If you do not have a temporary guardian named –someone who lives in the neighborhood and is a trusted friend –your kids could end up in foster care until child care plans can be verified. And finally, after spending every day tirelessly teaching our children manners and morals, ethics and spirituality, don’t we all want to leave record of our family’s virtues for the person who will take over raising our kids? ABSOLUTELY, right!
Confronting the issue of our own mortality –and that it could come sooner and without warning for anyone of us –is scary, to say the least. The process to plan for this contingency is intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Chances are, many of us complete all the emergency forms for schools, to ensure we have adequate life and AD&D benefits from our companies or an independent agency, to make sure our children make their health/wellness visits annually, to enroll them in activities that complement their personalities, to encourage friendships that build their confidences, and to try desperately to feed them something nutritional so that they grow to have strong minds and bodies. We can certainly handle taking on this uncomfortable task to simply ensure that life will go on for them, in some stable way, through all the ensuing chaos. The stakes are too high to merely “hope for the best”, don’t you think?