After a short writing hiatus, yours truly is back. Did you miss me while I was gone?
Speaking of “being gone” my 7 year old son burst into tears a few weeks ago right before bed saying that he was scared of having nightmares. Henry is a young boy of few words so when he articulated how he was feeling, part of me jumped for joy, and part of me was immediately concerned. I whisked him into this room, away from his naked post-bath three-year-old sister doing pirouettes in the hallway to have a private conversation with him. After tucking him into bed, making sure to surround him with his new Patriots blanket and all essential stuffies (stuffed animals) I curled up next to him and began to ask questions. Henry choked out words in between sobs,
“I’m having nightmares that you and Daddy will leave me with people I don’t know.”
I immediately assured him that would never happen and whispered a few more words of encouragement. He grew quiet, and sniffled a bit while settling into bed. We snuggled until I could hear him fall asleep, his body still, mouth agape, breathing quietly and smelling of berry burst mouthwash. I continued to lay next to him in bed, staring at the walls of his room graffitied with mismatched drawings, posters, race medals, and god knows what else that might be collecting dust behind his bookshelf. I let my mind and thoughts wander to those dark places that we all have, and I wondered…who will take care of my children if both my husband and I suddenly die? I couldn’t answer my own question.
You see, we don’t have a will. We don’t have a document dictating where our assets will go after we die. We also don’t have any directions for who will take care of our children should both of us pass away.
My husband and I haven’t put together a will for lots of reasons…mostly because we just haven’t gotten around to it. I for one, am afraid to talk about death. I’m afraid to make plans for after our death for a few reasons. If I talk about it, I then have to accept the fact that we are all going to die at some point. I mean rationally I know everyone eventually dies, but irrationally, I just can’t bear the thought of it. And the other reason I don’t want to talk about it is because I’m worried that if I make plans for after my death, then I’m inviting all this morbid presence into my life. I know, all irrational…but I never claimed to be a level-headed person when it comes to emotion.
I asked my dear friend if she and her husband had a will and she immediately said, yes. We talked for a long time about death and how they went about writing their will, including who would take care of her children should they both pass. And it was the most practical, non-emotional conversation I had ever had about this subject. It was actually… dare I say, refreshing?! And to just make it even more official I went on to Facebook and asked my friends to reply whether or not they had a will.
Immediately people started replying, 43 in total. And out of those forty-three, 33 people (some with kids, some without, some married, some single) all had wills! What? Where have I been these last few years of parenting? Am I the only person out there that just hasn’t stepped into the world of being a responsible adult and parent? I mean, my kids eat healthy meals, I get exercise, I bring my car in for routine maintenance, and I dutifully check my breasts for lumps every month…come on, I thought I was winning in adult-land over here. Apparently not.
I wanted this post to be more about step by step instructions on how to write a will and all the 411 you need to know. Like a good sociology/anthropology graduate I even did my research. I called my lawyer Aunt in NYC to ask her to school me in all things wills, estates, trusts. Alas, it was absolutely helpful and my head was spinning, but I’m not going to share all those minute details with you. Mostly because each family and state laws are different. I will tell you that I always had this idea that people with wills were people who had a lot of money. Newsflash: You don’t have to be rich to have a will. Although, hiring a lawyer to help you write a will can be expensive. There are options online to create a will but for someone like me who has a lot of questions about wills, I’d like to ask a real person questions.
Money aside, if you have children, you really should think about having a will.
You will want to make sure you have someone lined up to take care of your kids otherwise a judge will likely decide who their guardian will become. I don’t want a complete stranger deciding this even if he/she is a judge. This for me is the most important reason to be working on writing up a will. As my wise aunt stated in more or less words, when you have children you have made a pact with yourself and them to make sure they are always cared for as a minor. I want to do all the planning up front so should something awful happen they can grieve, and they can be loved and supported, and not have to go to court and sit thru testimonies and potential family arguments as to who will care for them. It’s my responsibility to them as a parent. Admittedly, It’s hard to sit here and think about someone else raising my children. When choosing someone to be their guardian I have to find someone that shares in my values, my morals, and will love my kids. But I know they won’t love them the way I love them. And that’s really hard. And then it makes me not want to think about it and the will never gets written. And there I go again getting all misty eyed and emotional. At least this is how much of the thought process has been for me.
If I can just put on my big girl panties (as my mom often tells me to do) and think about this from a practical planning ahead perspective then I think I can get it done. That way I can check this off my to-do list, and get on with living my life.