Another story of failed legal planning hit the news the other day, as a single mother from California died during the birth of her fourth child leaving behind four little ones and no guardianship directives. To complicate things further, the father of these children is not (and has never been) in the picture to claim responsibility. So fearing the kids would end up separated in the state welfare system, a neighbor (who also has six children of her own), stepped up to the plate. And, thankfully, the Los Angeles community has stepped up to the plate by donating diapers, clothing, food, etc. for the now mother of 10.
But in most cases, stories like this one don’t have such a happy ending. The sad reality is that children are placed in situations their parents would’ve never have dreamed possible because they didn’t take the time to plan ahead in the case of their unexpected death or incapacity.
Let this be a wakeup call for you.
There are three simple things that could have been done differently to ensure these kids were taken care of upon their mother’s passing. And if you have little ones at home counting on you, I urge you take these steps now to ensure a legacy–and not regrets–are what you leave behind:
1. Get a Term Life Insurance Policy– For a small amount of money each month, this mother of three with a fourth on the way could have been paying for a life insurance policy so that her children were provided for financially should something happen to her (especially knowing that their father was not in the picture and would not contribute to their care financially). Because she did not have life insurance in place, her children are now forced to rely on handouts and charitable donations from neighbors until they are old enough to support themselves.
2. Name Short-Term and Long-Term Guardians– While this story “seems” to have a happy ending with the neighbor stepping in to raise the four children and keep them all together, will she really be able to manage raising ten children? Maybe there was another friend or a family member who would have raised these kids EXACTLY as their mom would have wanted, but we’ll never know because she didn’t document her choices for her kids’ care.
3. Create a Legacy of Non-Tangible Assets– This mother unexpectedly died during childbirth. Because of this, her newborn baby will never hear the sound of her voice or know firsthand what her mother’s values were or how she would have guided her about things like religion, money, discipline, education, sex, or health care. As parents, even if you don’t have any money to leave behind, you can leave your children a gift of your values – who you are and what’s important to you. You can do that for free by writing letters or recording a CD for your children–this becomes a gift that is far greater than all the money in the world.
Regardless of how you choose to go about it, take the time to get your affairs in order while there’s still time-ESPECIALLY if you have young kids depending on you at home. It’s the only way to leave behind a real legacy-instead of regrets-at the end of your life.