Where There's A Will…

June 1, 2006

I was completely prepared for the many joys that accompany parenthood.

What’s more fun than watching your baby smile for the first time, hold out their arms for you, or sleep peacefully in your arms?

I wasn’t quite as prepared for the not-so-fun stuff.

I’m not talking about sleepless nights or exploding diapers. I’m talking about buying life insurance and preparing a will in case me and my husband die young and leave our darling daughter behind.

I’m talking about being forced to deal with the prospect of my own mortality, and the fact that someday, my child will be without a mother and father.

Fun stuff, eh?

I didn’t want to deal with it. I’ve always had a paralyzing fear of death, and I was too busy watching my daughter grow to preoccupy my mind with morbid possibilities.

But we finally buckled down and called a lawyer who specializes in estate planning. For $1,500, she prepared our wills and set up a trust for our daughter.

Doesn’t that sound fancy? Makes us sound like we’re rich or something. But we’re far from wealthy. We just want the peace of mind that comes with knowing that our daughter will be taken care of should anything happen to us.

We sign the paperwork tomorrow.

It was a simple yet emotionally painful process.

My husband and I spent the weekend talking about some taboo subjects: what happens to our baby girl if both of us die suddenly? What happens to our assets should all three of us die? Do we want to be cremated? Will we donate our organs? Would we consent to an autopsy? Do we want life-sustaining measures to be taken if there’s no hope of recovery?

These were tough conversations, but now that it’s done, I’m relieved. It would have been easy to continue to put it off, and I wouldn’t have been alone: according to Consumer Reports, only one-third of Americans have prepared wills. It’s easy to understand why we avoid it.

When you’re young and childless, you take life one day at a time. I got married at 22 and knew I had plenty of time to make babies. We didn’t think too far ahead, except to wonder where we’d take our next vacation.

Then this beautiful new being comes into your life, and all that circle of life stuff hits you like a ton of bricks. I won’t be here forever, and I want to make damn sure my daughter is taken care of should something happen to me. I don’t want our assets tangled up in the court system, and I don’t want some faceless bureacrat determining who should raise my child.

I faced my fears for the sake of my daughter. In the end, it was just one more dip in the rollercoaster of happiness and heartbreak that is parenthood.

Have you done any estate planning, fellow MotherTalkers? This page covers some basics about wills in the state of California.

Take the poll…