People often say that once the wedding is over, the honeymoon ends. While I don’t necessarily agree with that sentiment, I do know that once you say “I do,” things get very real and it’s time to take care of business. Part of that business is planning for your future.
Like many people, I always thought drafting a will would be something I would do much later in life (maybe when I was over 50). Unfortunately, I’m not alone, as about 64 percent of people have not drafted a will, according to Forbes.com. However, after I got married and definitely after having children, I really started to take things more seriously. It’s never easy to think about your own death, but preparing for the aftermath can help you protect your assets and your offspring.
Before we were married, both my husband and I obtained life insurance policies. We didn’t have any kids and I initially got a policy because I owned a house (the house would be paid off in the event that I died). Right after getting married, we discussed our policies and changed our beneficiaries to each other. And as soon as I found out that I was pregnant with our first child, I wanted to revisit the topic of life insurance policies along with drafting a will. Normally, I’m the “Google and make it happen myself” type of woman, but when it came to the welfare of our kids and our assets, I felt it better to have a professional handle it.
This whole process was more than I expected and is actually called estate planning. Our lawyer sent us a 15-page document to fill out detailing our assets, children’s information and even our agent’s (or power of attorney’s) information. In our case, we had to choose two alternate agents excluding each other.
All of the information filled out will ultimately be used to create the following items: last will and testament, which explains how your possessions will be divided; health care directive, which says that if you become incapacitated, a representative will be given permission to make decisions for you; and power of attorney, which is a person designated to handle your finances, business dealings and even healthcare decisions if you aren’t able to do so.
The last and most important item that will be created is the guardianship of our children. This is actually the main reason I wanted my husband and I to set up our estate and will. I wanted to ensure that if we passed before our kids are 18 years old, they will be well taken care of by people who uphold similar values and who have the capacity to actually take them into their home.
Here are a few tips and things to think about when handling your own estate planning:
• Choose responsible people to act as your agents/representatives and inform them of your decision in choosing them.
• Update your estate when any major life event occurs, including the death of an agent or birth of a new child.
• Make sure the information for yourself and others is accurate and up to date.
• Find a lawyer who is reputable and who will take the time to explain material that you may not understand.
Although we initially discussed setting up our estate a little less than two years ago, we just sent our completed paperwork recently. Life goes on and things happen, but making this a priority sooner than later is a must.