Do your teenagers know what to do if you die?

Jun 5 / Michelle Arseneault
It's Thursday evening and you and your husband are on your way to meet friends for dinner at your favorite restaurant. You've left your teenaged children at home, safely playing video games on the Xbox and gave them money to order pizza.

As you're excitedly describing how nice it is to finally be able to trust the kids on their own and get out of the house together, a truck runs a red light and smashes into your car. You don't survive.

Do you know what will happen to your kids if you die suddenly or become incapacitated?

Most people don't like to think about dying before their kids are on their own and completely independent. Mostly because it's painful and scary to think about. But the alternative is that your kids are left alone without a plan for money or where they will live.

Isn't that more terrifying?

Don't wait another minute before getting your affairs in order. It's your job to protect them, even when you're gone.
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Make a plan

There are a few things to think about when making a plan for your children's future without you.
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Make a living will

According to Legalzoom, a living will is a legal document that details how you prefer to receive medical treatment when you can no longer make decisions for yourself. 

Source: What Is a Living Will? | legalzoom.com
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Don't leave difficult medical decisions for your family members to make. They will have to live with their decisions, and that isn't fair to your loved ones.
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Name a healthcare power of attorney

A healthcare power of attorney is the person you name as having the legal power to make healthcare decisions for you when you can't.
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Write down your wishes for medical and after-death care

Include:
  • Life-saving measures like being on a ventilator
  • Organ donation
  • Whether you want an autopsy
  • Palliative care
  • Medical treatment
  • Burial vs cremation
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Make a last will and testament

According to LegalZoom, a last will and testament is a legal document that details how a person wants his property to be distributed after his death. You can also name a guardian for your minor children in a will and name the people responsible for managing and distributing your property. 

Source: Living Will vs. Last Will & Testament | legalzoom.com
Last will and testament

Name an executor

An executor is a person who will be responsible for making sure the wishes in your will are carried out and they will also be responsible for the finances of your estate. For example, they will pay any outstanding taxes and debt you had.
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Funeral and interment plan

Do you want to be buried with your parents? Is there a plot available? Do you want people to donate to a specific cause in lieu of flower gifts? Do you want to be viewed in a casket? How will your funeral be paid for?

These are all questions your loved ones will be asked and forced to answer while in the throes of grief. Write down your wishes and be as detailed as possible. The best possible gift you can leave your family is to have all of this pre-planned and paid for, so they don't have to worry.
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Plan where they will live (and with who)

Even if your children are legally considered adults, are they still dependent on you? If so, they are still going to need someone to be dependent on until they are completely ready to be on their own financially, emotionally, and physically.

Have this plan in place so that your kids' living arrangements aren't decided by a judge who doesn't know you or your family.
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Plan how they will get money

Insurance and inheritance

Do you have life insurance? If not, please invest in some. A good insurance agent will help you figure out the needs of your dependents, so you purchase the right kind and amount.

Make sure you indicate how your inheritance will be divided. Many siblings have fought over an inheritance. Don't let your passing be the cause of your children's relationships being damaged.
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Plan who will take care of their money until they are old enough

If your children aren't old enough or responsible enough to take care of a large sum of money, you may wish to place it in a trust fund. This way, someone else will have control of how it is spent on their behalf, at least until they get to a specific age.
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Share the plan

Once you have made a plan, it's important to share it with your children and family members so they know what to expect. Even though it will be a difficult conversation to have, letting your kids know they will be taken care of, if the worse happens, will help to prepare them.
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Write it down

I suggest you make an official living will and last will and testament. You can do this yourself using templates you can find online, or you can contact an agency or law firm that specializes in this.

Free downloadable forms:
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Store your documents in a safe place

Once your documents are prepared, store them in a safe place to protect them from getting lost or damaged. It's best to make a few copies and store them in different places and with different people.

These are some safer alternatives:
  • Bank deposit box
  • Fire and waterproof filing cabinet
  • In the cloud (Digital)
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Talk to your family members

Finally, speak to your kids and the rest of your family members. Make sure everyone knows what your wishes are. The last thing you want is for your family members to go against your wishes simply because they think they know what is right for your kids and for you.
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Why do this?

Don't underestimate how much better you and your family will sleep at night, knowing they will be okay if something happens to you. It will be a difficult conversation, yes. But it's your job as a parent to protect your kids. You have the power to extend that protection after you're gone.

Please start today.
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In the case of my death form
Download this In the event of my death printable checklist, fill it out, and leave it somewhere you know your family will be able to find it, if they need it.
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