When it comes to parenting there is an enormous amount of advice out there on everything from how to prep for baby to what to buy for back-to-school, but we often skip some of the most important to-dos. While many parents may have a financial plan in place most of us forget (or avoid) the big ones. Instead of sticking your head in the sand, I have an easy guide to help you get these tough to-dos to-done.
- Have Uncomfortable Conversations
We’ve all had to have uncomfortable conversations, but talking about death and serious illness ranks up there as one of the most challenging discussions you can have. Grab a cup of tea or a bottle of wine and sit down with your partner, spouse, or a family member to discuss.
Here are a few conversation starters:
The Kid(s): Who will be their guardians? Who is the backup? What kind of financial plans do you want in place for them?
Income/Work: What would you do if you could no longer work? What plans do you want in place for retirement?
Health: What are your wishes when it comes to your health? If you were unable to make health decisions for yourself who would you want to do it for you?
Death: What are your wishes for your remains? What kind of wake/funeral/end of life event would you prefer?
Starting these conversations isn’t easy, but once you’ve discussed these tough topics the next to dos will be much easier.
If you’ve already had these talks it’s not a bad idea to check in that nothing has changed. My husband and I recently realized it’s been 10 years (!) since our last check-in. A lot changed in that time including our first-born being old enough to be named as a guardian for our other kids! I would recommend you check-in more frequently than that-consider having these conversations about once every 3-5 years depending on your life’s circumstances.
- Have Wills Drafted
I can’t tell you the number of wonderful parents I know who have no will in place. Please don’t do this to your family. I know it’s hard to think about, but it’s imperative. And no, you don’t need to have a million bucks in the bank to have a will. It’s simply a document that shares what assets you have and where they should go (even your action figure collection or your most prized jewelry can be listed).
The simplest way to get this done is to contact a local lawyer who specializes in estate planning (a fancy word for end-of-life documents). They’ll ask you some questions or have a form you fill out and then create documents for you to sign. Most of it (thankfully) can be done via email with a brief meeting to sign your final documents.
Already have a will? Take some time to go over it to check if you need to update anything.
- Look Into Your State’s Estate Taxes
Estate taxes are the taxes paid on your assets as they pass on to your heirs. That’s a fancy way of saying the federal or state government tax a portion of your estate when you die. While your estate lawyer (see #2 above) may provide this info, you will want to discuss the tax implications with your accountant or financial planner.
Federal laws require estate tax on amounts over 5.49 million dollars, while state laws vary. In some states setting up a trust is in your family’s best financial interest to ensure your kids aren’t stuck with a hefty tax bill.
Already know this info? Double check that your state laws aren’t changing in 2018; several states are doing away with estate taxes.
- Share Your Health Wishes
No one likes to think about getting sick– much less being so ill that you can’t make choices for yourself– but it happens to nearly everyone at some point in their lives. You can work with your estate lawyer to create a healthcare directive to give your spouse, partner, or family member (and usually a backup) permission to make decisions about your care.
A health care directive can include instructions on when (and when not to) use life support, whether you’d like your remains donated to science, burial wishes or instructions, and whether you’re an organ donor among other things.
Already got these details sorted for yourself and your spouse? Double check that you have them in written format in a legal document.
- Get Life Insurance (Or Review Your Policy)
Life insurance is one of the simplest things you can do for your family. Put simply, it offers a financial benefit to the people you choose if you die. There are two options: whole life and term. Term life insurance is a smart option for families because you can get it at a low cost and it has the potential to replace years of lost income. It ends after the term on the policy, so a 15 year policy means you pay the same monthly cost for 15 years and the benefit remains the same. Whole life insurance has fixed premiums for as long as you pay them, but the cost is more expensive and many financial advisors would recommend other ways to stash your cash.
Life insurance may seem like it’s forcing you to put a value on your life, but it’s simply a way to help your family remain financially stable despite the loss of your income and/or care. As for how much life insurance may be appropriate, consider about 10 times your income (stay-at-home parents should calculate the cost of caregivers) plus any debt including your mortgage as a general guideline. You can purchase life insurance through your current insurance agent or you can look at companies who specialize in life insurance such as Haven Life.
Already have life insurance? Double check your beneficiaries and check that you don’t need to increase the amount to reflect your current financial situation.
Made It Through Our List, Okay? High Fives All Around.
Want bonus points? Go over these to-dos with your parents, in-laws, adult siblings, and friends. They won’t want to have these conversations either, but it’s helpful to know what their plans and wishes are now, so when the time comes you’re prepared.
I know these to-dos aren’t easy to get through, but trust me once they’re done you will feel a huge sense of relief knowing if anything happens your plans are in place.