Interesting. Yesterday I posted a blog about funerals and eulogies and that I think you should treat people as though one day they will be saying the eulogy at your funeral. As an afterthought, I reminded people to make sure they have a will, if they have children.
That last little footnote is what seems to have gotten the most attention, as that’s what the comments (which, by the way are very much appreciated, thank you), were about.
So, let’s talk about wills then.
Jeff and I just did our wills and powers of attorney this past December. 5 years late. I say “late” because really, you should do it as soon as your first child is born. The reality is, both you and that child’s other parent could be incapacitated, or worse, at the same time, any time, including the day after that child is born.
So, we were 5 years late, and had 2 kids by this point.
But, better late than never.
We are young, and in debt, just like everyone else. We have no worldly assets, no summer home in the islands, no offshore bank accounts, no millions to bequeath to our loved ones, or to charity.
But we do have 2 children. That’s why we got our wills done.
When I was pregnant with Makenna, we decided who her legal guardians would be before she was ever born. We had to decide whether her guardians would be friends, or family, and we chose family. We felt that if we were both to be gone, we would want her to still be closely connected with her family and the best and easiest way for everyone, would be to have her live with someone that she was related to, as opposed to one of our friends. Not that our friends weren’t willing, able, or qualified, we have wonderful friends that would be excellent guardians, we just chose to have the guardians be family members, who we knew our children would always be connected to and expected to see on a regular basis anyways.
Once we made that decision, we had to have that conversation with the people we had chosen…luckily they agreed, even though, as we found out, they had agreed to also be legal guardians to the child of a friend of theirs.
So that decision WAS made right when it should have been, and everyone on both sides of the family were made aware of our decision, but nothing was legal. Even though everyone knew what our wishes were, if anything were to happen, because we had never actually written it down, it could have been argued by anyone else who didn’t think we had made the right choice. We hoped that would never happen, that our wishes would be respected, but as time goes on and situations change, you never know. Making that official, and legal, was something we always knew we SHOULD do, something we always MEANT to do, but it wasn’t cheap, and we didn’t have the spare cash lying around.
This past winter, we bit the bullet and went to the lawyer. We each completed separate wills and separate medical and financial powers of attorney . In total there are 4 separate documents.
We legalized who we had chosen to be guardians of our children and now, in the event that it happens, no one can change what we decided. Jeff and I both have life insurance policies, and Jeff has one through the fire department, and so we specified where, in the event that we were both gone, any money would go. Obviously the answer here is “to our kids” and we had to specify whether we wanted it to be held in trust, and if so, at what age our kids would be able to access it, and who would be in charge of overseeing all of that throughout the years. We chose to appoint two people, someone from Jeff’s family, and someone from mine, to work together to make sure both families were served fairly when it came to our kids. We also had to specify where any money would go in case all 4 of us were gone and leaving everything to our children was no longer an option, and we had to appoint someone to oversee all of that as well. Again we appointed two people (the same two as above) to represent both families equally. Jeff has a large inventory of tools that he has aquired for work over the past 10 – 15 years, which altogether, do carry quite a bit of worth. He wanted to make sure they were not forgotten, and specified what was to happen to them as well.
If you are a single parent, having a will and naming a legal guardian to your child(ren) is crucial, especially if you know you do not want them living with and being raised by the other biological parent. As I mentioned yesterday, my mom’s best friend named her sister, not her son’s father, as legal guardian to her son, just weeks before she died unexpectedly. The father was not abusive or legally deemed “unfit”, and the mother’s wishes were upheld. Her sister became the legal guardian to her nephew, and the father had visitation rights.
As for the powers of attorney, a medical power of attorney is someone you appoint to make medical decisions for you when you are unable to. Normally this falls to your spouse, but we had to each appoint someone else, in case the spouse was incapacitated as well. This way, now that we have legally appointed someone, there will be little room for argument in a potentially emotionally charged situation. We each actually appointed two people, that would have to make decisions together, so that everything didn’t rest on the shoulders of one person. We also specified on paper what our own individual wishes were in regards to heroic measures, “do not resuscitate orders”, etc.
A financial power of attorney is separate, and is someone who takes care of your financial affairs if you are unable to, for a variety of reasons, not just medical. It could be that you are out of the country and something needs to be taken care of right away – then that person can act on your behalf. It may be your spouse, or it may not be. Or again, maybe your spouse will be unable to act on your behalf for the same reasons you are unable to – in which case you need someone else. In both cases, medical and financial powers of attorney, you do not need to name the same person/people that your spouse did. We each named two people, who would need to make decisions together, for our financial powers of attorney as well. You may not want the same people names for both – perhaps somebody is terrible with money and there is no way you want them having control over your finances.
It was a lot of paperwork, and about $500 total for both wills and both powers of attorney. It IS a lot of money, and a lot of families don’t have that kind of extra cash lying around. Maybe it means a few months of NOT eating out, or a few LESS shopping sprees, or NOT going away for a week. Maybe you each need to put $20 from each paycheque away for awhile until you have the money there. You may need to sacrifice something for awhile, but to me, it’s worth it given what could happen if you DON’T get it done. You don’t need to have a summer home, offshore bank accounts, or other worldly assets to need a will. All you need are kids. The majority of you reading this have kids, or know someone that does. Do you (or they) have a will specifying what would happen to those kids if you were gone?
For us, the peace of mind that comes with knowing that our interests are looked after, our kids will be taken care of, and “our affairs are in order” is priceless.
- I grew up in a village of 500 people and now live in a beach town of 10 000. Wife to Jeff, Mama to Makenna and Jack. This is my place to share what's up with us, and the place where I sometimes need to pour my heart out about the not so sunshiney moments. This is my happy place. Thanks for stopping by :) Copyright 2012 by Melissa Wormington, that no part of this blog may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, without permission from the publisher.