No one wants to talk about death. I mean No One. It comes creeping up on our door and we immediately act like we have gum on our shoe. We kick, rant and push off that sticky, tacky trash until it’s gone. When a loved one passes, we struggle to reflect on our own mortality and it is not uncommon to cry not only for the one gone, but also for ourselves, knowing we’re not made like Superman.
Somehow, I have recognized we must suck up some bravery for the conversation once we have children. I know it gives us brain freeze, but I would go so far as to say that we are acting irresponsibly if we do not have honest conversations about our demise once we bring someone into our lives that relies solely on us for their survival.
So, unlike the sometimes flowery and sweet messages I attempt to send, this one is of practicality, but I hope offers the deepest act of love and kindness we can offer to our children. YES, I am talking to all those parents who have no Will and No Plans for Guardianship if We DIE.
What will happen to your child(ren) if something happens to you? If there are two parents, divorced parents, multiple children from different families; what will you do if you are not here to show them the way to adulthood? And more importantly, what kind of message are we sending to our kids if we choose to operate from a place of pure denial everyday? And worse yet, what will it possibly feel like if our kids have to suffer through a painful Yank-n-Pull Party if our family turns into people we do not recognize?
I am imagining some of your faces now. The grumbles. The ‘I KNOW ALREADY!’ ‘GEEZ, Really Alicia! You want me to be THIS brave?’…… And, of course, my answer is, Yes. We can do hard things and I can say now that I have had some experience, it is not as difficult as one might think.
So here are a few guidelines and pieces of information to consider now that I have your attention:
*Note: Let me make clear, I am not an attorney. This is a conversation about how we can show up in our lives and choose to be brave. My suggestions may be incorrect. They are the best knowledge I can offer based upon what I understand.
You can choose to do an online version of a Will. We did this originally and although sometimes state language can be different, it will overall do what you need it to. I imagine that some states have more stringent guidelines and may want to look at how especially Advance Health Care Directives are worded as this appears to be guided different from state to state. There is a much smaller fee involved if cost is an issue.
Consider carefully who you may want to raise your children, NOT who you are going to have to make happy. I understand there are often hurt feelings involved in something like this, but it is good to inform the appropriate family once decisions have been made. Ask the person/family about being a guardian before moving forward and give them time to consider the gravity of what you are asking. It could mean having to monitor assets as well as raising your child(ren).
You can ask one person to act as guardian and another to handle money. That can be tricky, but what I understand now is that you want to set up your Will and Guardianship where the court is not regularly involved if it is not necessary.
Succession is relevant. If everyone is gone including your children, pay attention to the state rules of succession. In the state of Georgia, assets immediately go to parents, siblings and on down the line. If, for example, you need this to be bypassed or changed because it may be difficult to impossible to find someone, consider how it may need to be different. Again, we had to do this and made changes accordingly.
Consider carefully who you want to be your Executor. Try to take your emotions out of this decision and consider what is in the best interest of your child(ren) and not what family flavor you are preferring this year. Again, ask and receive confirmation that this person is open to this duty. It is a MAJOR responsibility and one you want them to feel comfortable with. I have learned from my best friend that the process is riddled with hurry up and wait scenarios and can take more than a year under good and simple circumstances.
Do not leave your assets to your minor children. Oops, we did this! This is apparently a major mistake made often with life insurance policies and even bank accounts. They cannot inherit until adulthood and perhaps even then, do you really want your 18 year old to have a slew of money with no completed brain to speak of? (A side note: our brain does not complete its work until we are about 25). This can be left to your partner or in another fashion that will allow the guardian to have access to it to use on your childs(ren)’s behalf
- It is so difficult to sit down and look at our children’s lives without us. It is gut wrenching to consider how my sweet baby girl would emotionally survive without her parents. The truth is no one can ever replace us. But how can I honestly have those conversations about death, you know the weird ones that show up while you are driving in the car to dinner, and not answer back as to what will happen to her if we are gone? I am responsible to her, both in life and in death. Of course, we all hope and most of us do not have to live through this kind of tragedy. But what if we did?
Let’s start a meaningful conversation about the gifts we can leave by not running away from our worst fears. Our children need to know that we will not only show up to their extracurricular activities and games, but that we will also show up in the darkest crevice of their life. We will not leave them in a heap of grown-up stuff simply because we were too afraid to have the conversation in this moment.
For the second time, our Will and Guardianship are done. It has been sent to the appropriate family members and it tucked away in our fire chest. It’s done and unless we have some odd reason to look at it again, we don’t have to. So, in this moment, what will you do?
I pray you can take a big deep breath and start the conversation, write a few things down, get some clarity for your child(ren)’s sake. Our daughter knows exactly what would happen if we were to perish prematurely and although many may think that is just another thing to keep from your child(ren), I believe it gives her satisfaction that she already knows that if we cannot be here to love her as she deserves, she knows who will.
P.S. Big Love to My BFF’s Anne and Frank <3.
P.P.S. If you would like a great local attorney for this purpose, may I suggest Charles Newberry @ 478.986.5141