Have you ever wanted to talk to your spouse about setting up a Will? Or deciding on guardians for your children but it just doesn't ever happen? Sometimes it helps to think about why. Is it because the thought of having this conversation is overwhelming? Are you lacking the emotional energy between school drop off and bedtime? Maybe you just don't know what type of things you should discuss. Here are some tips on how to make this tough conversation happen:
1. Identify What and Why. The first step is to identify what exactly is the conversation that you are needing to have and why do you need to have this conversation. Identifying these two things are going to help give you the motivation to make this conversation happen in the middle of the exhaustion of raising children. I like to call this conversation topic "Family Protection Planning". Why call it Family Protection Planning? Commonly, lawyers refer to this conversation as Estate Planning, but I don't feel "Estate Plan" effectively describes what we are discussing.
That's why I encourage you to identify the "what". What are you discussing? You're talking about putting a plan in place that will protect your children and your spouse in the event you are unable to do it. That's why I call it a "Family Protection Plan", it is about protecting the people you love most. Many of the people who need a Family Protection Plan are not ready to discuss wealth and estate planning, they are just trying to make it though the day-to-day. Most are not yet thinking about their heirs. Most of these families are thinking about how to make ends meet today, whether its paying for a mortgage, daycare, student loans or all of the above. If you fall into this category, you likely need a basic plan. A Family Protection Plan, a plan that will keep your spouse and your children safe and secure when your family is threatened by a hardship or catastrophe.
The next question is "why". Why is this conversation important? Yes, it's important to have a Will (it helps families avoid the costly Heirship proceedings), but most importantly it's talking about putting certain documents in place to ensure your children are safely placed in the hands of loved ones in the event of an emergency rather then spending the night in a CPS office or in a stranger’s home. It's having the documents that ensure your spouse has access to funds and can pay the bills. It’s peace of mind knowing your family will be taken care of if you are not around to do it yourself.
2. Prioritize. Once you identify the what and why, You have to prioritize having this conversation. Tough conversations don't happen unless you make them happen. Family protection planning isn't like a crying infant that demands your attention immediately. It isn’t reactionary. If you don't make it a priority, it won't happen. If you want to have a plan set in place, you have to make it a priority.
3. Schedule. A great way to prioritize this conversation is to have a time reserved on both of your calendars. Try and choose a time when you will have one another's undivided attention. If you are both morning people, maybe schedule something early morning before the children wake up or after they are off to school. If you are both night owls, reserve an evening to discuss after you’ve tucked your children in for bed. Or you could make it a date and have this conversation over lunch or dinner. The key is to be sure your spouse has your undivided attention and you have something on the calendar — this way your meeting will actually happen.
4. Discuss. Now that you have a time scheduled and you are with your spouse. Start talking. Discuss the desires you have for your family. What are your hopes and dreams are for your children? For your spouse? Start brainstorming who you would like to have take care of your children if you cannot. Write down why. Do they have the same values? Are they family? Who do you trust to handle finances? If you'd like more guidance and prompting for your conversation, fill out the contact from and I will send you a PDF of my Family Protection Plan Worksheet.
5. Action. Now it is time you take action to put these essential documents into place. All of this talk isn't any help unless you take action. Even if you've written your wishes down, it is probably not enforceable if it isn’t properly signed. It's time you meet with a trusted advisor that can help you make this happen. Meeting with a lawyer will help you tease out the details. They will be able to help you decide which documents you need to best protect your family, and they will help you make it happen.