As the Coast Guard cutter worked its way meticulously through the search area, I thought of the woman who stopped us on the beach earlier that day. It was the first trip to the beach for my kids (that they could remember) and since the moment we got there, Mama Bear had been on high alert. The ocean is a great place to gain some perspective and be reminded of our small place in the world.
While the kids ran towards the waves and screamed towards shore as the waves crashed in, a woman had stopped beside me, and wistfully said, “Be careful… be careful. We just lost my nephew out here yesterday.” As I watched her walk the beach the rest of the day, looking for his body, I couldn’t help but think about how fleeting life can be. Here are a few more excellent tips about planning for the unthinkable from my friend and estate-planning attorney, David Edwards:
- Don’t assume "it will all just work out." Unless you make your wishes clear, the unthinkable could happen – your kids could go into foster care (even temporarily). Or both sides of the family could get embroiled in a legal battle, each thinking they are pursuing your true wishes by gaining custody of the children. Of course it’s hard to think about death, but get over it. It will be harder for everyone involved if you don’t make a plan. How many parents will research the best car seat, but never do an estate plan? If the car seat is needed, there’s a good chance your estate plan will be, too.
- Your most valuable stuff isn’t stuff. How will you pass your values, traditions, stories, faith and life experiences to your children? A letter or recording from you will be priceless to your kids if the unthinkable happens. (You may feel silly at the time, but I assure you, your kids won’t be laughing at you while they listen.)
- Make your healthcare wishes known through a healthcare directive or healthcare power of attorney. Give access to private health records, authority for consent to treatment and even instructions about “pulling the plug.”
Thinking about these things is never pleasant, but don’t put it off any longer. Your children’s future depends solely on you. Don’t leave it to chance.