I’ve been thinking a lot about the future, recently, and in particular about how I should or could be looking after my children. I guess there’s something about having children that puts your mortality into perspective in the starkest way.
One of my favourite movies is A Little Princess, a story about a girl, Sara Crew, whose Dad puts her in the best boarding school while he goes off to war, and makes sure her every need is catered for. He goes missing, presumed dead in the war, and the British government lays claims to his assets, leaving his child a pauper. The headmistress of the boarding school has obvious Daddy-issues and has hated her from the day she arrived, so she takes massive pleasure out of offering to keep this ‘Daddy’s Princess’ on as a servant girl. Of course, being a story, she rises above it and it turns out that her dad is in the house next door, with memory loss. During a particularly dramatic scene where Sara discovers her dad just as the headmistress wants to have her arrested for stealing – she didn’t – Sara yells “Papa! Papa! It’s me!” … and without fail I break down in tears. E.V.E.R.Y time.
In a chat with friends, recently, it came to light that while most of us have something in place, none of us really know what exactly we need. So, here’s a composite of our thoughts – I think I need to turn it into a checklist and get on it, really!
1. Final Will And Testament
I guess the first thing you have to think of ‘in the event of’ is where your children will go. It’s a horrible thought, but it must be discussed. In our group it seems to be one of the most wrestled with topics. Many of us live far from our families, and it could be a good few days or weeks before they even knew something had happened! What happens to our children?
I can’t find any actual guidance on this, but I have been told that if you are incapacitated and have been identified, your GP will be notified. You can have next of kin for your children listed with your GP and ‘they’ will be able to notify your family that way.
Deciding who to leave in charge of our children has been one of the most difficult decisions for us, but this should be listed in a will, following discussions. You can leave your children with someone and leave their financial concerns with a different person, or both with the same person.
Most banks will help you set up a will, and it’s well recommended to do so.
2. Money, money, it’s so funny in a rich man’s world
Most people have a life insurance policy which you can pay in to every month, and then your family receive a lump sum pay out when you die – look at something like Comparethemarket.com to see what the best available options are for you. This will help toward funeral expenses, certainly, but will also go to the executor of your estate – preferably someone mentioned in your will as someone you trust – so that it can be used to keep your children, look after their education and so on. You can also decide to put the money in a trust for them so that they can access it when they are 18 or 21, but that might put a huge burden of financial responsibility on the legal guardians! (It seems so hard to know the right thing to do, doesn’t it!?
3. Mothers! Plan for your CHILDREN!
Something that I think is really important for mothers especially is making sure your money reaches your children. A few years back, I had a friend who told me her story, and I learned a really important lesson from it: don’t leave your money to your spouse, leave it to your children!
My friend’s mother died when she was 15, leaving all her payouts to her husband. He remarried 2 years later, when my friend was 17 to someone with three children of her own. Three years after that, when my friend was 20, her father had a sudden heart attack, leaving his pay out and assets to his wife – his children’s stepmother. She gave my friend and her two older siblings nothing, investing it all for her own children. Bonus for her, sure, but his children were left out in the cold. They had no family home to return to and there wasn’t even money to help her for her final two years in university, which her dad had been paying.
I am pretty certain that that had not been her father’s intention and as a mother I’d be turning in my grave knowing that everything I’d saved for my girls never reached them.
So… wills and life insurance, legal guardians and money – what else is there to think of? What other things do you have in place should the worst happen and someone else has to take care of your little ones?