The first time my husband and I took a trip away from our young daughter, I had acute anxiety that we weren’t coming back. I had visions that she’d be left an orphan floating in uncertainty as our families fought over who would care for her.
New mom fears are sometimes irrational but are absolutely real.
One byproduct of my anxiety was that it forced my husband and me to have one of those big adult conversations and look our mortality right in the face.
We had to discuss who we’d want to raise our children, what we’d want our funeral arrangements to be, and more. Luckily, we were on the same page when it came to most of the details, so when it came time to put our end-of-life requests on paper, it brought us both a lot of peace.
While a will is one important thing to consider when you have children, it’s not the only end-of-life unpleasantness you have to think about. Life insurance and savings can help ensure your family is protected financially in the event of one or both parents’ death. And today’s digital world means thinking about certain things our parents never had to deal with.
If you haven’t completed a will, you aren’t alone. According to a 2017 Caring.com survey, of parents with children under the age of 18, just 36 percent said they have an end-of-life plan in place.
If you have young children and don’t have a will, you’re leaving it up to the courts to appoint a guardian. If that feels like reason enough to create one, here’s another: you don’t necessarily need a lawyer to develop a basic will. Online companies like Fabric and LegalZoom offer relatively quick and easy ways to cover the basics. Once you start researching, the process can get a little overwhelming.
Do you create a Last Will and Testament, a Living Will, or a Living Trust? Here is a basic breakdown of the difference:
Sometimes called a Last Will and Testament is what people probably think of when you hear the term “will.” It’s a legally binding document that lets you designate who receives your property and possessions. According to LegalZoom, “a last will also allows you to name a guardian to care for minor children. The main purpose of a will is to ensure that the testator’s wishes, and not the default laws of the state, will be followed upon the testator’s death.”
A living will is a legal document that lets you state your wishes for end-of-life medical care, so you’re not putting the decision on your family.
A living trust requires more work, and likely costs more at the beginning because it’s a more complex legal document. If you have a large estate, you might consider creating a living trust, rather than a basic will. According to LegalZoom, some benefits of a Living Trust include avoiding probate court in the event of your death (meaning a quicker distribution of assets), privacy, and saving money in the long run (if you have significant wealth.)
For nine years, I worked in marketing for one of the big US insurance carriers and, as a result, I learned a lot about life insurance. I considered it a must-do when I was pregnant with my first child. That meant if one, or both of us, died prematurely, expenses like childcare, mortgage payments, and day-to-day cost of living wouldn’t be an added stress on top of grief.
My husband and I met with a few insurance agents to learn more (it’s important to remember these free insurance consults are sales tools, so going into the meeting with a little pre-research or getting some online quotes is helpful.) Like wills, life insurance comes in many forms, but the two most common types are term life insurance and permanent life insurance. Essentially, term life insurance is insurance for a finite period of time (the “term”). If you outlive the policy, you lose it. Permanent life insurance earns cash value over time but comes at a much higher cost up front.
Like health insurance, many companies offer life insurance as part of your benefits package, so you might feel adequately covered. Remember you can’t take the benefit with you if you change jobs, but it can factor into the size of the additional policy or policies you plan to purchase.
In our research, one insurance agent made us realize our biggest asset wasn’t our home or any possession, for that matter – it was ourselves. Because your biggest asset is your ability to work and earn a living, life insurance protects your beneficiary from losing that potential income.
Because your biggest asset is your ability to work and earn a living, life insurance protects your beneficiary from losing that potential income.
And if you or your partner is a stay-at-home parent, you may still want a policy for that parent while your kids are school-age because their work has a real cash value (childcare, household upkeep, etc.).
Taking into account your needs at various life stages may mean you want to take a laddering approach to life insurance, with multiple smaller policies each with a separate purpose based on your needs (to cover childcare while your kids are young, college education when they are older, or mortgage payments) rather than one large term or permanent life insurance policy.
College and Retirement Savings
OK, now we get to talk about money you can actually use while you’re living.
Another adulting conversation couples often have to talk about (and sometimes fight about) is saving money. Planning for college and retirement, on top of all the other costs associated with new parenthood can seem really difficult (hello, childcare costs!)
My husband and I decided to meet with a financial advisor. Again, it was a free service provided by our bank (used as a sales tool) but helped us look at the real cost of retirement. One thing a financial advisor said to us that always stuck with me is that you can’t finance your retirement. While your child could have help with tuition from grants, scholarships, or loans, you do not have those benefits for your retirement.
Add a Facebook Legacy Contact
OK, so this is not nearly as important as the other items on our list, but we thought it was an interesting consideration in today’s digital world (and it’s the easiest to execute.)
Facebook has updated its legacy contact feature where you can assign one legacy contact. This person can change your profile into a memorial page in the event of your death, so your family and friends can still use your profile as a virtual scrapbook of your life. Legacy contacts can do certain things like changing your profile picture, but they can’t read private messages or delete any previous posts.