We are very happy to introduce Jacoba Urist to our MainstreamMom readers. Jacoba is a lawyer, mother and Huffington Post Parents blogger in New York. She has a JD and LL.M in Taxation from New York University. Jacoba spent the last year researching (almost) every aspect of parenting and planning for the future for her book, The Happiest Parent. Follow her on Twitter.
About a year ago, I noticed something strange…
Women are willing to dish about virtually everything related to mothering. It starts as soon as you start to show. Random strangers suddenly feel comfortable sharing their personal advice, in a Starbucks, or a drug store, or really anywhere they can possibly corner you. Are you planning on getting an epidural? Co-sleeping? Pumping? Because, let me tell you. And they’re off to the races.
But curiously, everybody âŽ¯ from your pediatrician to the chattiest person at playgroup âŽ¯ fails to mention one crucial part of parenting: writing your will.
Estate planning is, quite simply, one of the last, big taboos out there, especially among pregnant women. So it’s no wonder that over 50 percent of Americans don’t have a will, a good many of them parents of underage children, the only group that absolutely needs one in the first place.
A will is the legal document that appoints a guardian for your child. As a parent of a minor, without it, you are literally flying blind. If something happened to you and your spouse, the court âŽ¯ a judge and social worker you’ve never laid eyes on âŽ¯ would get the final word on who raises your son or daughter. And sometimes, their “logical,” “objective,” “best” fit isn’t exactly the relative or friend you’d want for the job.
Which brings us to the big question: of all things we do to prepare for a new baby, why don’t more parents choose a guardian and write a basic will?
#1 Nobody wants to think about dying.
Unfortunately, if you’ve got young kids, you’ve just got to get over that hump.
Sure, the thought of your child’s life without you as a parent is downright heart wrenching. The last thing any expectant mother wants to do in a time of excitement and anticipation is plan for a worst-case scenario. But there are a lot of trying aspects to parenting (4:00 am feedings, anyone?). Writing a will is one of those things you’ll be happier having done in the short and long run, even if it’s incredibly difficult now.
Of all the parents I talked to no one ever said they wish they hadn’t taken the time and appointed a guardian for their son or daughter. In fact, for many mothers without a will, when they finally talked about it, choosing a guardian was one of those things that gnawed at them in the middle of the night, and they wished they could just get done already.
#2 It’ll never happen to me anyway.
The answer I hear the most from couples without a will.
True. Thankfully, the chances of something actually happening to both you and your partner and someone else having to raise your child are extremely slim. But that doesn’t mean they’re zero. In all my research, one overwhelming conclusion emerged: the happiest parent is the parent who plans for the future. Making sure your child is protected under any circumstances makes you feel more secure today.
#3 Writing a will is expensive.
A common myth among parents.
Yes, you may need a lawyer for a more elaborate estate plan, if, for example, you want to draft a trust or protect a child with special needs. But here’s my motto: something is always better than nothing. You can easily buy a Last Will and Testament at any large office supply store and name your child’s guardian for under twenty dollars âŽ¯ a great choice if you don’t have the time or money for a complete estate plan right away.
And many lawyers can draw up a simple will for a really reasonable price: a few hundred dollars that lasts you a decade or so, when you may want to revisit your estate plan.
#4 I have a million other things to do first.
No doubt about it, parenthood is exhausting, and it often feels like there’s a to-do list a mile long. Writing a will can easily land at the bottom of the heap.
But as a responsible parent, you have to commit to getting this particular task accomplished. Because at the end of the day, no matter how safe your car seat is or how many outlets you cover, without a will, you haven’t baby-proofed your family’s future.
Do you plan to write a will soon? Have you already?