Life Can Change in an Instant
You simply never know when a family emergency will strike. Car accidents, weather-related catastrophes, natural disasters like floods and earthquakes, or simply taking public transit to work can result in a tragedy, including injury, hospitalization and even death. It always pays to be prepared in advance, and for single parents, it’s even more critical in order to ensure that your wishes for your kids are carried out.
Only You Know What’s Best for Your Children
It’s your child-and in many cases, your children. You know exactly what you would like to happen to them in the event of your serious injury or death. Who would be best to care for your children, how your money and assets should be managed and distributed, who to contact first and where you would like your children to live.
But if you don’t leave specific instructions, others will make decisions for your children – without your guidance and oftentimes, against what you would have wished for.
So here’s what to do: at the very least, prepare a “letter of instruction” for what should happen in the event of your untimely or unexpected death. Think of this letter as a “map” – with all the important locations marked that show where to find all the key items that will be needed in order to ensure your wishes are fulfilled and your children are taken care of, should a family emergency occur leaving you unable to take care of your child or children.
What to Include in Your Letter
First of all, you have to let people know where to find things. Where’s your will? Where’s your binding agreement with whomever will be caring for your children? What about your life insurance policies, pension or IRA or your Veteran’s benefits if you’re entitled to them? Not to mention where they can find other key assets, like stocks and bonds and real estate. Also, be sure to list where people can find your valuable papers and items.
The last thing you want is for people to be scrambling to search for all the pertinent information. One of the easiest ways to aggregate all the key info is to have a Family Emergency Card. It will have all of your files, passwords, finances, medical, legal and contact info all in one secure place. You can learn more about it here.
It’s also very important to make sure you’ve made it very clear who’s in charge! Is it a lawyer? Accountant? Estate planner? Or maybe it’s you aunt Agnes? And whoever it is, have a discussion with that person about what you’ve done, where things are, and what you want!
What Happens if You Don’t Leave Instructions?
Quite honestly, this information is the most important part of this article.
Because if you don’t leave instructions, and that includes a will, family members will be fighting over who controls your kids as well as your estate when family emergencies strike, and the only winners will be the lawyers who get involved. You have specific intentions on the type and place of care for your kids, and unless it’s properly documented and all the required information is available, you’re intentions will go by the wayside.
Sadly, once you’re gone there isn’t anything you can do. It must be done in advance, and it must be legally binding. That’s why you need a will, and that’s just for starters. This isn’t just about who gets to keep your priceless guitar collection, for example. It’s who gets to make decisions that will impact your children on a daily basis should a family emergency happen.
Where you live can make a huge difference as well. In some states, if you die without a will your ex can inherit just about everything you leave – including all the assets that were intended for your kids. Other states will divvy up the assets, with about almost half going to your parents. If they’re no longer alive, it will go to your brothers and sisters – even if you’re estranged from them. Just remember that a family emergency can strike at any time, and the best preparation is a Family Emergency Card that provides all the necessary information needed to carry out your wishes.
Everyone Will Benefit
Here’s something else to think about: it isn’t only your kids who will benefit from your letter of instruction and putting all of your paperwork in order. You’ll enjoy peace-of-mind the minute you have organized everything. So will all of your friends, relatives and business associates, if you own a business with others.
But the biggest winners are your kids. They won’t be placed in limbo, wondering what will happen to them now that you’re no longer around. And that should be the motivation to get things done!
For more information about creating a family emergency plan and how to make sure your kids are cared for in an emergency, learn more at Family Emergency Card today.
About the Editor: Bryan Beeler is a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist.