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(Sorry for the stupid title)

Preparing for what may happen if one or both parents die is a bit like making sure your computer is properly backed up (sorry, computing analogy). It's something you don't even want to think about, so you avoid doing anything about it. Superstitiously, you don't want it to happen, so you think that if you don't think about it happening, that will mean it can't happen (reference to falling and Hitchhiker's Guide here).

What have you done to prepare for these eventualities?

UPDATE

Thanks for the answers so far. Part of the reason for asking this question is to try and motivate myself to do 'something', so keep 'em coming!

For the benefit of all answerers, I insert here one time for all the mandatory disclaimer:

"This site is not a legal advice site, please consult a lawyer blablablabla"

asked 07 Jan '10, 15:09

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Benjol
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edited 08 Jan '10, 05:52

2

+1 for the HHGTTG ref. :)

(07 Jan '10, 15:14) Scott ♦♦
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+1 Interested to see answers as i haven't got any plans if i die!

(07 Jan '10, 15:21) Phil Seller
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I've posted an answer below with practical suggestions. However, I'm curious, for those with older children, do you talk about the possibility with them? It seems like it would be hard to do well but I could see there being a benefit if you were to die.

(07 Jan '10, 15:36) Kiesa ♦

+1 Reminding me that I should finish reading it!

(07 Jan '10, 15:39) Emi
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Another question to tag onto this . . . When you choose your guardians, do you create any sort of "this stuff is important to us" documents for them? (such as, "we'd really like our child to go to college") I like the idea but I've never seen it suggested anywhere and I don't know if it's like back-seat driving from the grave.

(07 Jan '10, 15:44) Kiesa ♦
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Personally, I intend to live forever, or die trying ;-)

(07 Jan '10, 16:01) Yuval

+1 great question! oh wow... something I've never thought about and has now got me thinking!

(07 Jan '10, 22:10) Lin
showing 5 of 7 show 2 more comments

I had a great plan to get everything organized before I gave birth . . . and then I went into preterm labor ;) I think this question has a lot of good things to consider.

Here's what we've specifically been working on:

  1. Life insurance. In my husband's case it's to provide enough financial support to get the kids to college if he were to die. In my case, it's to compensate for stuff I do around the house such as childcare and house cleaning (truthfully, we probably don't have enough to cover everything I do but it's a start).
  2. Choosing guardians for your children. Several of the books I've seen recommend choosing both a caretaker and a guardian who looks after the financial interests of your children. We haven't gone this route as we're comfortable with the people we've chosen doing both aspects. We have chosen multiple guardian options with an order of preference specified so hopefully no one feels the child will be abandoned if they are at a point in their life where they can't really deal with suddenly having a child (maybe this is paranoia on my part but I like being prepared :) ).
  3. Wills. This is the part where we've been slacking. It's on our list of things to do immediately but we're still not entirely sure how to go about finding a good lawyer as we don't know many people who live in our town so recommendations are problematic.
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answered 07 Jan '10, 15:35

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Kiesa ♦
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+1 :) Oh my word, you are so clear headed and organised!

(07 Jan '10, 16:15) Emi
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"truthfully, we probably don't have enough to cover everything I do but it's a start" - a wise man told me, "just make sure you're worth more alive than dead." :)

(07 Jan '10, 18:05) Scott ♦♦

@Scott - Good point :)

(07 Jan '10, 18:28) Kiesa ♦

+1 for clear-headed, good list. Note that in the US, you almost certainly want a trust rather than just a will. Find an estate lawyer. Also, you should take the opportunity to arrange for what happens if you are incapacitated but do not die -- living wills, etc.

(08 Jan '10, 01:30) lgritz

Question regarding your answer - who do you inform of your guardians? Do you go to them directly? What if they're not contactable if the worst happens - who would know about them?

(08 Jan '10, 20:23) Lazlow

@Lazlow this is one of the things I plan to formalize more when we go to the lawyer. I'm particularly worried because all our guardians are out of state (though in the same country) so I imagine there are legal complications that our lawyer will have to help us with. However, right now, we're telling all family and all potential guardians about each other. On the bottom of my baby's car seat (so it's out of sight) we also have multiple emergency contacts listed.

(08 Jan '10, 22:03) Kiesa ♦
showing 5 of 6 show 1 more comments
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We got our wills done in late 2007. Two different law firms here in Massachusetts stressed the importance of the following five documents, which we had drawn up.

  1. Last Will and Testament: appoint guardians for your children, an executor of your will, how to devise and bequeath your estate (i.e. to your Family Trust)
  2. Family Trust: detailed rules for the Trustee you appoint (not necessarily a guardian) about how to provide for the care, comfort, support, welfare, and health of your children (by distributing your estate, over time) in the event of the death of the Donors (i.e. you). Note that you must specify the trust as a beneficiary (after your spouse, probably) on your life insurance, retirement accounts, investments, and other assets.
  3. Durable Power of Attorney: let someone (i.e. your spouse) make legal decisions on your behalf if you become incapable of making them yourself
  4. Heath Care Proxy: appoint an agent (i.e. your spouse) who can make health care decisions on your behalf if you become incapable of making them yourself
  5. Living Will: should they pull the plug on you??

I apologize if I misrepresent the purpose of these documents. I am not a lawyer, and your mileage may vary depending on where you live.

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answered 08 Jan '10, 03:56

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Phil
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2

+1, this is the thorough list that should be the accepted answer.

(09 Jan '10, 01:12) lgritz

We got a Will drawn up after at least one of our children was born (I forget exactly how long it took us to get round to it).

We used Will Aid, where you can get a basic Will drawn up by a solicitor who has offered to do it for free, in return for you donating to the Will Aid charities. It looks like it's closed at the moment though, and "Will Aid will run again in November 2010" for those in the UK wishing to take advantage of the scheme.

We each left our entire estates to the other (I think!), but we had to consider the possibility we might both die at the same time (in a car accident, perhaps). We therefore had to think of who would look after the children, as well as what would happen to our assets.

One thing we were advised is not to put, "I leave my money to my (currently only) child X", but instead, "I leave my money to be divided equally between all such children as I may have at the time I die," as this means you don't have to alter it if and when more children come along.

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answered 08 Jan '10, 13:49

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Paul Stephenson
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Asked: 07 Jan '10, 15:09

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Last updated: 08 Jan '10, 13:49