One father’s responsibilities

I decided to write this because I wanted to give an account on how I almost fell into the trap of continuous procrastination. Because my wife is an estate planner we knew that we needed to create a plan for the worst case scenario. Originally, this plan just included us. We exchanged personal information such as bank accounts and SSN. We also created power of attorneys, Wills and a Living Will. Although we are married having nothing in writing could leave room for conflicts of interest between loved ones, such as the conflicts in the infamous Terri Schiavo case. This plan took on additional dynamics with the birth of our daughter, Reese. Although we are a team and it was our plan I felt a special responsibility as a father. I want to raise her to be a successful, strong, confident woman. I want to be an example to her of how a good man respects the ones he loved in words and in actions.

Despite my strong convictions, for over a year, I did not act to create a plan for the worst. I didn’t take steps to create a plan to help ensure that my parental responsibilities would be carried on by someone of our choosing with guidance from my own words. The constant procrastination was primarily due to all of the many “firsts”. Her first day in the world, to our first diaper change, to the first day she came home; the lists of first is quite extensive. Only after tragedy started to hit closer to home that we remembered we had no plan and made it a priority to create one.

Our first step was to acknowledge that the worst case scenario would be the death of my wife and me. We then needed to decide who would take over our responsibilities. Should we only consider blood relatives or should we include our closest friends? Who could best teach Reese about our values? What could we do to ensure that Reese would not be a financial burden to whomever we chose? What about our debt?

I had so many questions and my wife threw several more at me. Luckily my wife also had answers and options. One option we liked for managing Reese’s inheritance, which included two life insurance policies, retirement funds, and equity in a house, was to have it managed by a committee - also known as Trustees. We decided on a monthly stipend and three people we trusted would be responsible for making sure that all of Reese’s needs were met while she was underage, including the purchase of her first car. She would receive the balance of her inheritance when she was of a certain age. After answering several more emotional questions we ended up with a solid plan that we were confident about. Although nothing is 100%, it was a good feeling having peace of mind that we had a solid plan to help ensure that our responsibilities and wishes for our daughter could be carried by others if my wife and I couldn’t be there do it ourselves.

Maurice Mitchell