The toughest part about being a single parent is making crucial decisions with very little or no guidance.
A year ago, I found myself unexpectedly hooked up to numerous hospital monitors with a physician fearing that I was suffering from a heart attack. Even though the complications with my heart turned out to be a symptom of a pre-existing medical condition, the thought of leaving my three children motherless terrified me.
Being hospitalized for issues with my heart should have served as a sign to get all of my legal affairs in order. Instead, I ignored my parental responsibilities. It was just easier to pretend I had plenty of time to plan for the inevitable.
Of course, being in a state of denial does no one any favors. Especially my kids. They deserve a future where there would be fewer financial and emotional complications.
Based off of my present encounter with pre-planning for the unexpected, I compiled a list of four essential tips single parents should consider when it comes to their children.
Guardianship- In the event of your death, your child's biological father or mother, or ex-spouse, may be awarded custody. My ex-husband and I discussed this topic with our kids after filing for divorce. I do have full custody of my 13 and 14-year-old. In the unfortunate event, I was to pass away; my ex will obtain full guardianship of our children.
As much as I hated having this conversation with my teens, they deserved to know what would ensue after my death. It did put my boys a little more at ease when we assured them there'd be no relocating or changing of schools.
If the ability to have a civil conversation with the other parent or guardian in your child or children's life is impossible, then enlist the assistance of a family member, friend or legal aid to help in this delicate matter.
Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney- Because of all the traveling I did with work over the years, I had these forms on file. My ex-husband and my 21-year-old daughter knew where to locate them if the need were to arise. When I went back to reference those same documents, I absentmindedly forgot I was in my late 20's when I initially filled them out.
For the sake of your children, relevant forms like these should always reflect changes after a major life event. In my case, I should have updated those documents when I first became chronically ill in my mid-thirties and then when I filed for divorce.
Financial Overview- From my years of working as a Personal Banker, I do know that minor children can not receive ownership of your assets beyond a specific dollar amount. Failing to make informed estate arrangements when naming beneficiaries of life insurance, bank accounts, or retirement accounts can resort in the court appointing a guardian of the estate to oversee property inherited by your kids.
I'm currently in the process of sorting through each of my accounts. It is a bit frustrating, but the weight of this task will soon lift once everything finalizes and becomes equally divided between my kids.
Pre-planning Your Funeral - With all of the recent revisions on my Living Will, it made perfect sense to check into a local funeral home for their information session. It was vital for me to learn how I could lessen the monetary burden on my surviving family members.
The moment I walked into Gruetzmacher Funeral Home, Brent Gruetzmacher, the funeral director, his wife Kimberly and apprentice, Mandalyn went out of their way to give the attendees a very cordial welcome.
Brent started out by sharing personal details about himself so that we could better understand the reason for his chosen profession. Learning more about this licensed funeral director and how he's worked with his father in the family business for the past 20 years, immediately put my mind at ease. I was no longer intimidated about figuring what I wanted my final wishes to be.
During this event, I learned all about my state's burial guidelines, what your loved ones should expect during a consultation after your passing, and how the funeral home can handle local or out-of-town situations with the deceased party.
I was even pleased to hear that I had an option of keeping a folder with my all of details to my pre-planned arrangements on file at this particular funeral home.
Brent welcomed questions from the participants during and after the session. As we were leaving, a table with several of the standard forms was assembled for the attendees to take along with them. Having these documents readily available made fewer obstacles to my pre-planning process.
Among those forms, I obtained copies of the funeral homes general price list, Authorization for Final Disposition Instructions, (Wisconsin) General Durable Power of Attorney, (Wisconsin) Power of Attorney for Health Care, Living Will, (Wisconsin) Basic Power of Attorney for Finances and Property.
Receiving information about pre-planning your funeral was very beneficial for me. If you are somewhat apprehensive about going to this type of event, consider asking a family member or friend to go along with you. Having moral support could make any necessary course of action a less daunting ordeal.
***Disclaimer- This article was based on my own experiences. Seeking legal consultation to authorize important documents for carrying out final wishes is strongly advised. Keep in mind; each state has their own set of laws when it comes to legal forms and funeral arrangements. Consider checking with a funeral director in your state to get those full details.***