Death, Orphans, Lawyers, and Other Unpleasant Things

last will and testamentDying and leaving our child orphaned isn’t exactly something we like to think about on a regular basis. In fact, we try not to think about it at all. However, death and dying is a fact of life and we have a responsibility to Trey to make sure he is taken care of in the event of such a tragedy.

This past week we finally got around to creating 4 documents every parent should have.

  • A Last Will and Testament
  • A Living Will
  • Power of Attorney Appointment
  • Legal Guardianship over Trey

The process isn’t all that difficult, it is just time consuming. Luckily, I have a friend who is an attorney and he helped us wade through the sea of legal-mumbo-jumbo to get these documents taken care of. I feel it is definitely worth the cost of an attorney because they make sure it is done right, explain everything thoroughly to you (and give you some important advice and warnings), and they take care of having the appropriate witnesses and notary present at the signing.

I figured as a service to those reading this blog that I would go over what each document is and why it is important to have:

  • Last Will and Testament – This is the classic “to my beloved 2nd-cousin-thrice removed I leave my cat Fluffy” document. It can actually take a lot of thought and time to create this document if you want to give specific things to specific people. We each opted for the simple version – basically if either of us dies, the other gets everything. If we both die Trey gets everything. If all three of us die, everything is split evenly between our siblings.
  • Power of Attorney Appointment – This document simply says who is in charge of your estate and children if you are physically and/or mentally unable to make decisions (coma, etc…). This document isn’t necessary but is basically doing a favor to your family. Instead of going to court to have a person appointed you’ve told the courts exactly who is in charge. Typically you assign you spouse power of attorney and then your child if he is over 21.
  • A Living Will – a couple years ago the “Terry Schiavo” case was all over the news. She was a vegetable for 15 years, her family was bitterly divided over what to do, and millions were spent in legal costs because she didn’t have this document. This document basically says whether or not you want life support for extended periods of time. The person you give power of attorney is the one who gets to enforce this.
  • Legal Guardianship over Trey – This is probably the most important one to us. This is the legal document that says who becomes Trey’s “foster parents” if we die before he is 21. The person we assign as his legal guardian gets all of our assets “in trust” to Trey. Once he turns 21 he gets everything out of the trust.

I know this isn’t the most exciting topic but you owe it to your family and your child to take care of these things as soon as possible. Every day you hear of car crashes, heart attacks, and other unexpected tragedies – the truth is that “it could happen to you.” These documents help you care for your child even after your death.

One thought on “Death, Orphans, Lawyers, and Other Unpleasant Things

  1. Nathan and Barbara Nordlund

    Thanks for this. A good reminder that it should be done. I appreciate the clear explinations too!

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