Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Last Will and Testament

Maggie writes:

Death is a fact of life. While I plan on spending eternity in Heaven, the people we leave behind will need to be taken care of. As a parent, it is my responsibility to try to take care of my children, even when I am no longer here. Which is where wills come into play.

No one will love your children the way you do. Picking a couple you know love your children and espouse your beliefs can be difficult. How do you go about choosing the "right" care takers? What if the people you choose aren't in your family? How do you broach the subject with your second choice, especially if your first choice isn't family and your second is?

I don't have all the answers, and would LOVE to hear what Mollie, Millie and May have to say on the subject! I do, however, have some suggestions.

Pray. Going about giving your most precious possessions all willy nilly is not a great idea--THAT much I know. Seeking God's guidance on all directions in life is important, and this is definitely not an exception.

Search. In an ideal situation, you'd find somebody in your family that loves your children nearly as much as you do AND would raise them in a similar fashion. Not all families are so fortunate, however. Many people would rather not have anything to do with their families, let alone leave their children to them! Ya can't choose family--but friends are an entirely different matter. Friends are the family you choose. Frankly, you can be closer to friends than family. And that's okay!

Prepare. Term life insurance is both practical and affordable. Making sure that your children (especially if you have more than most..) won't be a financial burden is important. You want to make things as easy as possible during this time of emotional upheaval. Throwing financial worries on top of everything is irresponsible and cruel.

And here's where I'm at a loss. How does one broach the subject to the second choice? You can't say "You're not my first choice, but if something should happen to them, can you take the kids?" How do you avoid hurt feelings and offense? Help!

Millie writes:

Maggie, I can't over-emphasize how important I think this is. Making out a Will when you're young and healthy (or not-so-young and beginning to creak) can make people feel like they're asking for trouble and I agree, it can be an emotional minefield. However, it's the only way to make sure that your kids land where you want them to land in the event of your death.

When Lance and I made our wills the situation was further complicated by step-relationships, ex-spouses and about a thousand relatives whose feelings we could potentially hurt by not leaving the kids "to them." One thing you can do in that case is to appoint your current spouse as the executor of your will and name them to manage your child's monetary inheritance until the child comes of age - in this way they will have a legal right to stay in the child's life, even if the Ex wants to edge them out. (Fortunately, this is not a problem we expect to have.)

We adopted a "team approach" insofar as the physical guardian goes. We asked a young, healthy, energetic couple who love our minor kids and have the same child-rearing philosophy as ours and who are already involved in our kids' everyday lives. Once they'd accepted, we talked to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends to tell them what we'd decided. We asked them, in the even of our deaths, to rally around and support our kids in their already-important roles as grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends - and to make a special effort to watch over them and help them with the things they'd need to know as they grew up. It's sort of a "godparent" arrangement.

One other thing you can do is to include letters along with your wills, telling your executors and your kids things that don't necessarily belong in the legal document. Give your ideas about milestones such as dating ages, family traditions and who you'd like to receive your pearl pin on their wedding day. This is also the place for you to write down as much as you know about your family's medical history.

Making these decisions isn't easy, but it's necessary. This is one of the biggest gifts you will ever give your children, even though you hope they will never need it.

Mollie adds: AMEN!

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