A letter to all new parents

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Dear new moms and dads: 

Right now, you’re wrapped up in the miracle that is your baby – the burps, smiles, giggles and even poos.  You’re probably trying to figure out how to change a diaper one-handed in order to hold your camera in the other, to catch every sweet smile.  And that’s absolutely okay.

You know what would be even more okay – in fact awesome?  Tonight, when the baby’s asleep and you’ve caught your breath and have a little time to think and plan for the future – start getting organized for writing your will.  Start a file that lists all of your financials.  Start another listing your physical property, and a third detailing the family heirloom items – photos, jewelry, etc – that another family member might have a claim to.  Then make an appointment with a lawyer if you can afford one, or go to Legal Zoom, or search google for sites that have sample legal documents and write it yourself. 

Now this is extremely important:  BE SPECIFIC.  It’s perfectly legal to say “all of my assets and goods to be divided equally between my living children” – but oh dear goddess, I can almost guarantee that this will trigger an unholy shitstorm when you die.  No matter what little angels your children are, no matter what upstanding and honorable adults they become – this shortcut in your will is going to turn one or more of them into Grieving Gollums, trying to grab onto and hold all of it as “my own, my Prreciousss”.

So yes, do be specific.  Say “little darling A gets V and Y, perfect angel gets X and Z, Aunt Tilly gets the old family photos and gramma’s antique doo-dad, and her daughter Punkin gets W.  EVERYTHING ELSE is to be liquidated and the proceeds to be held in trust for my minor children until their 18th birthdays.” 

Update your will every time a new child enters your family, every time there is a major life-changing event in your family – and as the children get older, update it at least every 5 years.  If you love your eldest child, DO NOT make her the executor of your estate – it will save her a world of added grief at a time when she is already grieving your loss.

If you love ALL of your children, teach them that love lives in the heart and mind, not in things.  Teach them that you’ll be there watching over them because you love them, not because they’re holding onto a piece of expensive junk you once owned.  Teach them that loving – and being loved by – their siblings is far more valuable than getting the biggest slice of pie.  I promise you, the day will come when they thank you for it.

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