I’ve been overly obsessing about what’s going to happen to my children if something happens to me, if I am incapacitated or worse yet, if I die. I’ve been worried about this for the last two years. I just woke up one day and realized, as a single mother, they depend on me daily for most of their needs and although I have raised both my daughters to be very strong independent young girls they are still only 9 & 6 years old. So naturally I worry. It has become an obsession, as I said.
I’m not afraid of dying. We all have our own beliefs about what happens next and I do believe in an afterlife and I am saved by the grace of God and so I do believe my soul will journey to heaven. What I fear most is leaving my children alone and me being unable to help them in any way. So I set out on a mission. It’s something we should all think about really, whether we’re 20 or 65, having our affairs in order. I had never really given it much thought before. I guess when you’re married you are under the assumption that there will always be someone left to take care of things. However, as my adviser told me and I will pass on to you, NOTHING should be assumed. As the old saying goes, we are not promised tomorrow, none of us. So why not be prepared today. This isn’t meant to be cryptic, it is simply being realistic.
So what do I do if I want to provide for my children when I am gone?
First and foremost, get a life insurance policy. It doesn’t have to be much. Even if it is only enough to cover the burial expenses that is one less thing your family will have to worry about. Life insurance is really not that expensive. The benefits far outweigh the costs. I pay $42.00 for $100,000 worth of coverage and my premium is higher because I have bipolar. It is difficult to find coverage with a mental illness but it is possible. You can probably talk to the insurance agent you already have. I had my car insurance thru State Farm. When I wanted to add Life Insurance, I just asked them about it and it got done. After life insurance, there is a matter of beneficiary. Naturally, if you are married your beneficiary should and would be your spouse. However, if you are not married you can leave your money to your children. However, if they are underage there has to be a guardian or a trust. I chose a trust. The way I did it is I went to an adviser (an accountant actually) and he set up a “living trust, will, power of attorney and a Health care Directive. The living trust is set up so that in the event that I become incapacitated or the unthinkable happens and I die, my benefits kick in and my life insurance will be distributed into a trust in equal shares to both my daughters. There it will be invested and grow interest until they reach 3 ages. When they reach 18 they will get 1/3 of the money. When they reach 21 they will get another 1/3. When they reach 25 they will get the final 1/3. It is also set up so that when they reach 16yrs old they will start receiving weekly paychecks from the money the trust has been making, not from the principle just the investment earned. The will is in place, naturally, to honor my final wishes … Guardianship of my children, disbursement of my property, etc. The power of attorney is there in case I become incapacitated someone is ready to step in and take over my duties without a big argument over who it should be. And finally the Health Care directive, it is there to let my final wishes be known about what I want medically and to appoint someone to carry them out. These are all things you don’t want to assume will be handled in your absence. You don’t want people fighting or arguing over who is going to decide or be in charge of this and that. These things are all too important decisions to just leave to chance. And you definitely don’t want to leave it to fall at the feet of your minor children with no one there to pick up the pieces. You don’t want people arguing over who’s going to take care of Johnny or June. Even you are a single parent and the other parent of the child will regain custody of the child once you are no longer available, do you really want to leave him/her in charge of your affairs either. This way, you get a say in who controls what and even how it is controlled.
After the life insurance is taken care of there are still other things you can do to make things easier. Did you know you can prearrange everything, your funeral, your grave plot, your stone, everything. This is what I did. I wanted to be buried beside my memaw & papaw. It’s the only “requirement” I had. But the cemetery where they are buried is very popular and they are buried in a very prominent spot. Everyone told me there was no way I would ever get to be buried beside them. So I went to the cemetery office and I asked them if they had any plots available around them. They had four, one right beside my papaw, and three at their feet. So I did the best thing I could do. I made my arrangements with the cemetery on the spot. I told her I wanted the plot beside my papaw. We sat down and went over everything. When I left there, I had my plot & my headstone and I am now making payments on it each month (you don’t have to pay for it all at once). I didn’t have to pick out my stone right then, I just paid for one. My kids or family can pick whichever one they see fit when the time comes. Soon I’ll have it paid off and that’s one less thing they will have to worry about, which also means more life insurance money they won’t have to spend. You can also go to the funeral home and prearrange everything there to from picking out your casket to the actual funeral itself, but I didn’t do that part, yet. When you go to the cemetery and get your plot they give you this neat little book that you get to take home and fill out that basically tells all your wishes as far as what you want for your funeral down to the finest of detail, what you want to wear, new or old clothes, jewelry or no. It’s really quite interesting. Having this much control over your final decisions gives you a peace of mind and knowing that your taking away the stress of difficult decisions from your family and children adds to that peace of mind.
It may seem morbid to think about death. But it is something we all must face at some point in our lives. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. We are only guaranteed this moment, so make the most of it. Consider what you’ll be leaving behind. What do you want to do to provide for your children?