You can’t imagine life without your child but you need to imagine what life without you could look like for him or her.
In this post you are going to learn:
- The definition of an estate plan
- Why every mom (even pregnant moms) needs an estate plan stat
- The basic information you need to create a well-rounded estate plan
Photo Credit: Sharon Mccutcheon via Unsplash
Disclaimer: I’m not offering legal advice or promoting an insurance company. The goal of this post is to encourage moms to seek the appropriate resource to create a plan for the possibility of difficult circumstances that will could impact vulnerable family members and minors. See my disclaimer policy for more information.
Let’s get started.
WHY EVERY MOM NEEDS A WILL AND/OR ESTATE PLAN RIGHT NOW
No one likes to think about major injuries, illness, or death. Even writing that sentence made me feel uncomfortable. But we need to get uncomfortable so that we can get prepared (as much as possible) for a future we will never be able to predict.
What do I mean?
In 2020, we experienced large fires, floods, racial unrest, and a pandemic. While many of these happenstances aren’t novel, no one could have predicted that each issue would be impacting the lives of so many people at once. As a result, people are coming to understand that it only takes one unfortunate event to be a catalyst for a series of difficult family hardships.
This realization should have all parents asking this question:
What would life be like for my child if something happened to me?
If you have never considered the answer to this question, now is the time. Imagine the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you did everything you could to take care of your child – no matter the circumstance. That is what estate planning is all about.
What is an estate?
For many, the word ‘estate’ conjures thoughts of a large parcel of land sometimes with a large established home that is owned by a person or family. This is one meaning of the word estate but another understanding of the world estate is simply everything you own or “all the money and property owned by a particular person, especially at death” (source).
What is an estate plan?
Estate planning is the process of making arrangements for everything you own (your assets) and who will take care of your responsibilities if you get seriously ill or die.
How is an estate plan different from a will?
Good question. I had this question too.
A will is a legal document that outlines various instructions on how you want the things you own distributed, guardianship of minor children, beneficiaries, and it can include other last wishes (cremation, funeral, etc).
Related: Introduction to Wills
According to lexology.com “Both provide your relatives with instructions about how your property should be handled after your death, but estate planning goes even further to outline your wishes regarding your health, finances, and more, even while you’re living” (source).
Essentially, an estate plan is a more comprehensive way to secure and manage your assets and it can include a will and a trust.
Need a visual? I like to think of the will as the burger at the fast-food joint and the estate plan as the full combo that includes a burger, fries, drink, and maybe even a cookie.
Who needs an estate plan?
Me. You. Every parent.
Of course, this is my opinion and you should talk with a specialist in this area to determine how to best support your family.
Who benefits from estate plans?
Grappling with loss is difficult. Adding a component of trying to figure out what your loved one would have wanted and how to manage it all financially, well – that’s even more challenging.
I like the idea of removing all guesswork from the situation, for my family. Besides, I know that many of the people outside of my household, including family, have no idea what I would want. It’s not a topic that comes up during holiday dinners – or ever.
The ability to have input into the decision-making details of who I want to take over the care of my child, how I want my assets to be disbursed (even to my child), and other last wishes is an opportunity. Taking advantage of the opportunity is a must.
Let’s eliminate families struggling with the finances of burying loved ones or arguing over remaining assets.
Estate plans can benefit spouses, partners, future guardians, other relatives, and most importantly our minor children or those with special needs – the people who are most vulnerable in these circumstances.
How to begin creating an estate plan?
1. Have a conversation with your partner/relevant family members, or answer the question for yourself, “What would happen to our family if…”
- one parent/guardian passed away?
- both parents/guardians passed away?
- one or both parents got seriously ill or incapacitated?
2. Decide the preferred guardian or caregiver for minor children or adult children who will need care.
3. Consider who you would trust to be the executor of your estate, a limited power of attorney, or power of attorney.
4. Put together a detailed inventory of assets (tangible and intangible) and debts. Keep it in a safe and secure place.
5. Evaluate life insurance needs based on up-to-date financial information.
6. Review accounts and ensure that beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries are assigned – as appropriate.
7. Look up information about trusts and other state laws that may apply.
The above steps are some things you can do as you begin thinking about your estate plan; however, having someone who understands estate plans and puts them together for a living is a valuable resource. That’s why the last step in this section is…
8. Talk with a specialist/attorney to determine the best plan of action for the needs of YOUR family.
Why talking with a specialist/attorney is important?
Putting together an estate plan can involve getting your life insurance in order, different types of will, trusts, and other important documents.
Most parents including my husband and me had no idea where to begin. Thankfully, there are professionals that specialize in helping families with estate plans. You could use online templates, a search on Google and you find tons; however, be mindful that an attorney in your state can offer specific advice about various laws and answer follow-up questions about your unique circumstances.
At the very least, a will is an important tool to have in place for your family, dying without one is legally termed dying intestate and the laws of your state will determine what happens to your estate (everything you own and guardianship of minor children).
If you want to create a will, check out Mama Bear Legal Forms or other reputable resources.
A comprehensive estate plan that is updated as your life changes may be the best gift you can give your family when they are already dealing with heart-breaking loss.
If you want to create an estate plan, get with a professional in your area. Psst…some offer free consultations!
This isn’t an easy topic but I’m passionate about letting moms know about every tool that will serve their families well – in life and in death. I pray no parent ever has to live a day without their children but I recently had a college friend die with two children under the age of eight. No one could have predicted what happened to her and her youth made it seem unlikely.
Photo Credit: Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash
Don’t wait to do what you can to take care of your family now.
Have you created a legal will or estate plan? If so, how was the process?
If you haven’t created an estate plan yet are you motivated to get it done asap?