“Are you doing to die, Mum?”
“Yes, but I’ve no immediate plans in that direction.”
“OK. If you do, though, will I get all your money?”
Sometimes it’s the small moments that make all the hard work of motherhood worth it, aren’t they?
This week has been all about wills and financial planning. I know, I know. Making a will is one of those things I really should have got around to years ago, but there always seemed to be something more important to finish first. Work, school stuff, that packet of Quavers…
For someone who spends as much time as me trying to fight my natural inclination to obsess on all the Terrible Things that might happen to me on a daily basis, making a will is a bit challenging.
Honestly, just the thought of my lovely girl being alone, without me to protect her makes my heart stutter, but as a single parent, it’s unavoidable. After all, does anyone really want their ex-husband to move into their precious house and sleep in their bed, and manage all their finances until their child comes of age? *shudders*
And as a single parent, I don’t have the luxury of being able to leave everything to my spouse and smugly note that there’s zero inheritance tax. Oh no. If I don’t make sensible arrangements, Flea has to pay 40% tax on anything I leave that is valued over the threshold – and once you take a house into consideration, that threshold really isn’t very high at all.
Not to mention the very real risk that she would immediately sell the house, car, business and anything else not nailed down and spend the proceeds on Nike trainers, Haribo and vintage Marvel comics.
So I’ve been thinking and planning.
First, there’s financial planning. Putting things into place to cover school fees and university fees in the short-term, and flat deposits beyond that. There are insurance policies to pay off the mortgage and provide an income in the event I’m no longer here supporting the household. There are pensions and investments and all the other stuff my financial advisor told me to do when I was 25 and I ignored him because, well, I was 25.
Then it’s a question of what happens to those assets when I’m gone.
It’s easy to just say, “Flea gets everything” but when? In stages? All in one go? My child will need an income to pay for her education, housing, food – who will manage that money for her? What happens to the share of the business she will inherit? My ex-husband has many talents, but financial management isn’t one of them. So I need to ask someone else to take on that responsibility – and ensure they’re aware of my wishes.
It feels like a monumentally giant ask, doesn’t it? Would you look after my child’s financial wellbeing? Will you be the person who sorts out my life insurance and ensures the electricity bill gets paid? If I’m incapacitated rather than dead, will you make decisions about my medical care, so Flea doesn’t have to?
I tell myself I’d do this for the people I love in a heartbeat, so I can only hope they feel the same way in return.
And of course, the biggest, hardest, don’t-think-about-it-too-hard question is … what happens to Flea?
She’s always been close with her Dad. Because we were married, and we share custody at present, the default legal position is that if I die, he assumes full custody.
But my ex is almost 15 years older than me. Without wishing his demise, there’s a reasonable chance he will die before me. So what then? I need to appoint a guardian who will take care of Flea in the event that she (God forbid) loses both parents before she’s of age.
And is the default position the best one? Flea has had some big challenges in her relationship with her Dad over the past year that have had quite serious consequences, and I suspect in the event of my death, my traumatised daughter might be happier staying with other family members, even if just in the short term. Hopefully this isn’t a long-term situation, but it is worth taking into account.
As a single parent, I can express my wishes in my will, and while they’re not legally binding, they should be taken into consideration when deciding what should happen to Flea.
These are issues that, I know, all parents need to consider. And none of us want to – because the idea of your child being alone, and not being around to love and protect them is just… unthinkable.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go and re-bury my head in the sand and not think about anything quite so grown up again for as long as possible.
(image via Shutterstock)