Life Insurance And Guardianship

These two topics seem to go together.

L sent in a post about life insurance.

Kind of a different take on this. Do Totebaggers have life insurance?

Lean In Isn’t Just About Professional Fulfillment. It’s Also About Worst-Case Scenarios.


Rhode has questions about guardianship.

A recent Totebag topic shifted to safeguards in the case of death of a spouse. I worry about what happens to DS if DH and I were to die together.

Now, I know both families would rally and DS would want for nothing. But who should we ask to be DS’s guardian? Should that person (people) also have control of any finances? How do we make sure that DS is still integrated with both families?

On being a guardian: Have you, or someone you know, denied a request to be a guardian? Why? Also, DH and I are guardians to my godson and his older sister. Do we have to include them in our guardianship plans?

For quick background – I am an only child but am very close to my extended family. DH has 4 siblings and is somewhat close with his extended family. We have a few good friends, though I’m not sure how many would want to parent my son. DS’s godparents are my best friend and DH’s BIL.

What else do we need to discuss?

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186 thoughts on “Life Insurance And Guardianship

  1. Great topic! This is timely for us, too. Given DD’s age and where various family members are in their lives at the moment, we have asked my parents to be the guardians if need be. While both sets of grandparents absolutely adore DD and would be loving caregivers, DH’s parents are working through relationship issues right now and are in the midst of moving. We do not plan to share this choice with DH’s parents because it would only exacerbate the relationship/moving issues, and hopefully it is information that is never needed! We do need to write it down somewhere.

    As DD gets older and becomes more integrated in her community (and grandparents get older and less physically able to care for her), I’d imagine guardianship might change in order to minimize disruption to her life and keep a good support network around her. In that case, I think we’d want to allocate an annual stipend from life insurance for the guardians to use to care for DD (though not sure how we set that up).

  2. Great topic! On guardianship: My sister and BIL are guardians for our two children. There was really no debate, though we did keep our decision hidden from my parents and ILs to avoid hurt feelings. Likewise, DH and I are guardians of our nieces.

    We have gone back and forth on life insurance. I have it through work, but DH and I really focus our efforts on getting the best disability insurance we can. There’s a much higher chance of disability v. death.

  3. like houston, my sister and BIL are guardians for DS and we are guardians for their children.
    it isn’t something I bring up to my parents or inlaws. Hopefully it will never be an issue.

  4. you really do want to have this in a legal will or document, I’ve heard that without your children can be placed in foster care while the estate is sorted out

  5. First thing we did when we had kids was up our life insurance. We did delay for a little over a year doing wills and guardianship papers, partly just not knowing where to start to find a good lawyer (was telecommuting from ABQ at the time), and partly not knowing who to pick but knowing that there were many loving relatives available and willing should the worst happen.

    I think you need really, really good life insurance before you ever think of leaving the work force. I know the insurance salesmen will say enough life insurance to throw off sufficient income for the rest of your life to cover your expenses, which would be like 10-15x salary (which is such a big number that people just decide it’s unattainable and don’t even try). But I’d cut that back based on (i) whatever social security benefits you would receive, (ii) other savings you may have, and (iii) what even a low-level, part-time salary might bring in. We basically have @$1MM each, because neither one of us plans to quit, and we figured that would give enough cushion to cover dropping to part-time and/or paying a nanny + college. We also chose a level-term policy whose rate expires around college-time, because once we’ve got the kiddos fledged we won’t need it any more.

    I am now back to bury-head-in-sand mode on the guardians, though. We chose my stepsis, because back then she was DINK, and she’s a family therapist and way good with kids, and was in Denver. But now we are here and she is on the other side of the country, with two small kids of her own (one of which has some minor-but-effort-intensive health needs), and I don’t think that’s best for her or our kids. And my mom desperately wants my kids but would kill DD within a month, and there are some similar-type issues with either of DH’s sisters. So now I am just ducking and covering and crossing my fingers again that we at least get DD off to college before DH and I kick it together. :-)

  6. To winemama’s point… are there good boilerplate forms for designating guardianship and/or creating will (other than what I might find simply through a search)? Is LegalZoom or something like it good enough, or is it worth it to hire at attorney to help?

  7. Very timely for me too. Just had DS and have had numerous discussions with DH about who he would go to God forbid something would happen to us. I assume he would get our life insurance (which reminds me I have to add him as a beneficiary) as an offset to his living expenses for whomever takes him. My parents are still rather young and are an option, my in-laws are older and in poorer health, so not an option. Another option is close extended family, but we’d have to keep that decision quiet as it would upset my sisters. Once we make the decision, what do we need to do to formalize it?

    To answer the other part of the question: I have been asked to be a guardian for my niece and I turned my sister down. It was at a point in my life where I wasn’t ready for it. If asked today, I would probably agree to it.

  8. @MidA — the best thing an attorney can offer is to ask you questions that you wouldn’t have thought to ask yourself. I went in with a very complete, lawyer-like list of Things I Wanted. Our final wills looked very, very different. I would never do a will or guardianship without a lawyer — the stakes are too high for someone’s template to end up doing something different from what I intended. Especially with my kids.

  9. Another good thing about using an attorney is that everyone knows where to find all of our docs v. having to dig through our files. Not cheap, but it was a one-time thing.

  10. The money part’s easy. The guardianship is a much more difficult question, and we’re kind of in limbo. The tradeoffs boil down to keeping the kids close to their grandparents instead of living far away on one hand, and putting them with dual-WOH parents whose kids are older and who are more “done” with little kids, and also not at all religiously observant, which is almost a deal-breaker for DW.

    I’m comforted by the fact that it is extremely unlikely that both of us will die within the next 15 years.

  11. some of the nice things about choosing my sister is my niece is the same age as DS and she attends the same church I do (ELCA). it would be a couple hours away from the grandparents, but that isn’t bad

  12. We picked one of DH’s sisters to be the guardian for our kids. My family (parents or siblings) would have been fine, but his sister (and her husband) seemed to be raising their children in the manner closest to ours, and we figured having a couple of built in older brothers/sisters at such an awful time would be helpful.

    When DD was in college we decided to make a change and had her be the guardian of her younger brother. Anyway, we talked to both kids about what they would want and they decided that DD would leave college and stay in our house with DS while he finished his last year or two of high school. There were several other alternatives for him (go stay with original aunt/uncle or move up to where she was in college), but they talked about it together and came up with that plan. Luckily we made it intact!

  13. what I worry about is if we died in a car accident on date night or something, I am such a worrier

  14. This is a really tough one. I have one sibling, and for now, we have named him and my SIL as our kids’ guardians. But I don’t think they’re the best choice any more. My brother works all the time, and my SIL seems overwhelmed with her own two kids (who are younger than mine). I think that caring for two additional kids would send her over the edge. Also, my brother lives in the DC area, and my kids are now old enough that I really want to keep them in our community, if possible. DH and I are thinking more and more about asking friends of ours who have kids who are friends with our kids; but we’ve only known this couple for a handful of years, and this seems like an enormous thing to dump on them. Also, our kids are friendly with their kids at the moment, but who knows if that will continue to be the case in the future. So, we have basically just been sticking our heads in the sand and avoiding making a decision.

    DH has a couple of siblings, but they’re not local, and frankly neither one of them would be a good choice. DH’s brother and sister-in-law are just DONE with having kids in their house, and DH’s sister (who is single) can barely take care of herself, let alone anyone else.

    Re life insurance, DH and I both have plain-vanilla term policies, which are meant solely as income replacement. I love insurance, and was happy to buy it. DH hates insurance, and I had to force him to buy it. The tipping point was when my MIL moved to our town. I told DH that if he died before his mother (who has extreme longevity in her gene pool), he had to leave me with some cash to take care of her. He grumbled, but did end up buying the policy.

  15. We still need to do a will, which is ridiculous, because DH does basic wills all of the time for pro bono clients. I’m tackling that after we get back from vacation. We’ve told everyone who will get our kids (my sister and BIL) and they’re all supportive of that option. We have life insurance but probably need to up it on both of us and an umbrella policy.

  16. When we were setting everything up, our estate lawyer told us that there are no perfect options. No one is ever 100% happy with the choice of guardians. We chose a sibling of mine. When the kids are older, we might change. We have lots of life ins separate from employment on my husband. None on me. I would probably be sure to set up trusts so that an 18 year old doesn’t have access to a lot more money than he can responsibly handle.

  17. Ok, amending my question: If it’s worth it to hire a lawyer, how do you find a good one? Ask lawyer friends for recos? And what is a reasonable price range to expect, assuming nothing too complicated and that we are efficient with providing materials, etc.?

  18. Cat: We used a similar strategy with disability insurance–for DH, the policy is independent of his employment. This way, it cannot go away if he switches jobs and fails to qualify later on in life. I think this is very important.

  19. We have never named a guardian, and the financial planner we visited a few times last year was really on us about it. The problem is, there is exactly ONE candidate in the entire extended family, and we rarely see him. This is one of my DH’s nephews. He is in his 30’s and has two kids of his own. My DH’s sisters are all much older than him and really too old to be guardians, plus two of them have made it clear they really dislike kids. Likewise my sib also hates kids. So really, we are down to this one nephew, but we don’t have much of a social relationship. What to do?

  20. Mooshi – what about a good friend? Our back-up guardians are good friends of ours.

    Mid A – do you have an accountant or tax person? They often have good referrals. Or ask local friends, particularly if they are lawyers themselves.

  21. Life insurance. DP – he does not have much, but left the workforce due to a layoff that turned more into forced retirement. Getting much life insurance at the age and in that situation was tough, so his is minimal. My pension only allows you to carry life insurance at 1X your salary, but I carry that. I have a $1M policy outside of that.

    Guardianship is another problem – We are working on identifying set 4. At first is was my parents, but as they aged they were no longer appropriate. Next choice was a very close friend of mine and her husband, who I did not know as well. They came for an extended visit and we planned to broach the subject near the end of the visit. It was very clear as they were staying with us in very close quarters that he is an alcoholic – highly functioning, but still an alcholic – keep looking. Next, we had another couple and they agreed. We were in process when they found out their child has some chronic learning and related issues and they no longer felt that they could take on this commitment. We had left it a bit in limbo as we were not even sure who we’d ask next. I am an only and he and his sister don’t speak, but they are 67 and 69. He has a niece that might be a good candidate, but the girls have only been around her once as they are halfway across the country from us.

  22. We are pretty short on friends who are so close, and so longterm, that they could be considered. My best friend, who is also the godmother to one of my kids, is a good bit older than me, lives in a downtown highrise, and travels extensively. My other really good friend, also a lot older than me, is a good candidate but she has been struggling for the past few years with her adult son’s heroin addiction so I kind of hesitate to ask her.

  23. I want to thank L for assisting me in finding a lawyer local to our area and bringing up this topic which prompted me to take action. DH is a worrier but hates actually taking action on this stuff.
    One of DH’s siblings is named guardian. Any of our siblings is fine though if push came to shove.
    We need to up our life insurance. I told DH that his siblings would have to take responsibility for his parents if something happened to him. It is not so much the financial but I wouldn’t be able to deal with my distraught MIL on top of losing my husband.

  24. “Any of our siblings is fine though if push came to shove.”

    Between my husband and me we have 9 siblings, but none was acceptable to us. I guess we’re too picky. Some of them were not parent material and didn’t have children, some were older, and we had major differences of opinion about parenting/lifestyle with the others.

  25. We had a really hard time picking a guardian initially because we only considered family. Once the lightbulb went on that we could choose someone else, it was a simple decision to pick a close friend.

    I don’t understand comments like these:

    DH and I are thinking more and more about asking friends of ours who have kids who are friends with our kids; but we’ve only known this couple for a handful of years, and this seems like an enormous thing to dump on them.

    and

    My other really good friend, also a lot older than me, is a good candidate but she has been struggling for the past few years with her adult son’s heroin addiction so I kind of hesitate to ask her.

    You aren’t “dumping” anything on them. They are free to say no if they are not comfortable with it.

  26. I have a question about life insurance.

    A good totebagger couple decides to start a family at 25 and has two kids who will be done with college when they are 49 so they buy two $2 million 20 year level term policies. Fine.

    Being good totebaggers they are maxing out their 401k contributions starting at 22 so when the hit 49 they will have $1.9 million in retirement. The goal being to retire at 67 when they will have $7.2 million, which with a 3% withdrawal rate will barely keep the lights on as it’s less than 80% of the typical $270k totebag income.

    It sure seems like you’re exposed during that period from say 49 to 62 when you won’t have life insurance and you also won’t be able to hit your retirement goals with one party deceased A quick running of the numbers says you should have $1 million on each part to cover you – so maybe a 15 year level term you buy when you’re 45?

  27. And we paid a lawyer about $2,000 for all of our estateplanning, living wills, POAs, etc., about 10 years ago. We asked a lawyer friend if she knew anyone who did estate planning, and she referred us to someone, and that lawyer referred us to the one we used.

  28. Evil Twin – we are lucky that way. Though each sibling household may differ in some things there are two things – they have committed to bringing up their kids in our shared religion and they are totebaggers :-).

  29. We agreed to be guardians for relatives who have two very challenging children. One with serious learning disabilities and the other with emotional/mental issues. We would have done it, of course, but I was relieved when these kids became adults.

  30. He has a niece that might be a good candidate, but the girls have only been around her once as they are halfway across the country from us.

    That was our big issue with family. All the possbible guardians live in other parts of the country and we didn’t like the idea of the kids having to move and basically restart their lives on top of losing their parents.

  31. Rhett – In theory, we could all steadily decrease the amount of life insurance we carry by the amount our assets increase (or, if you want to be really specific, shift it from term life to umbrella liability).

    You’re kind of jumping around on the numbers a bit, citing the Totebag Median as a hard limit. 1) 3% is a pretty low withdrawal rate; 4% is probably safe, and adjust if there’s a really major recession. 2) I don’t see how even a Totebagger can’t live off of a $1.9 M nest egg when there are no more kids to support (if there were kids to support, then the life ins. would still have been in place). And why can’t he/she work from 50-62? Doing anything at all, part time even.

    Barring all that, annuities are another option.

  32. “You aren’t “dumping” anything on them. They are free to say no if they are not comfortable with it.”

    I don’t think it is that easy, especially if it is an old friend.

  33. Rhett – we have some 30 year term policies. And most Totebaggers can self-insure after a while. After the kids are raised and their 529s are funded/being used, I am a lot less worried about how I’ll be financially.

  34. Rhett, you raise a good question. Without getting into specific dollar amounts, people should consider carefully what they want their life insurance to protect against. Do they want it to provide a safety net, match their existing goals/lifestyle, or something in between?

    DD, I think it can be a big deal to ask someone to be a guardian. It can inject awkwardness or hard feelings into a relationship if the request is denied. Or worse, some people will feel pressured or feel confident about accepting when they really should not.

  35. I’m bummed I’m so busy today. Life insurance is my bread and butter. Do not name your minor children as a beneficiary. In most states, the money will be tied up, and the guardian will have to go to court to get the funds. Get a trust set up. And pay the small attorney fee to do this.

    For us, my BIL/SIL are the custodial guardians (keeping the kids local). By brother/sil who live out of state are the financial guardians. This then allows my brother and family to have a say in my children’s lives.

  36. “shift it from term life to umbrella liability”

    A very good point. As a “rich” older totebagger, I think about the risk of losing a lot of my savings to a lawsuit.

  37. . 2) I don’t see how even a Totebagger can’t live off of a $1.9 M nest egg when there are no more kids to support (if there were kids to support, then the life ins. would still have been in place).

    The first two rules of totebag retirement planning are:

    1. Assume no Social Security
    2. Assume you can’t live on a penny less than $216k* in retirement.

    * 80% of 270k.

    And why can’t he/she work from 50-62? Doing anything at all, part time even.

    He/she can but they will end up over $1 million short of their retirement goals. Certainly, your retirement needs don’t fall by 50% just because one spouse dies.

  38. Does anyone know whether long-term disability policies from an employer are usually “own occupation” disability insurance? Social security disability only pays out if you can’t hold any job so if you can hold a minimum wage job, you are not considered “disabled”. My FIL applied for social security disability but was rejected and died before he got through the appeals process. He took a forced retirement from his job so long-term disability wasn’t an issue there.

    I thought about the disability problem quite a bit when Mr WCE’s atrial fibrillation was causing him chronic weakness while I was 6 months pregnant with Baby WCE. Atrial fibrillation puts you at risk for stroke, which is likely to leave you disabled rather than dead. I’m not sure how I’d parent 4 kids and care for a disabled husband- as in previous conversations, I’d fall back on family, probably my Dad (who likely has at least another 10 years of good health) or my sister (who would rearrange her life to help me in that case)

  39. @Rhett — a couple of things:

    1. If they start at 22 and have kids early, then by the time one parent dies the kids are in or close to college. Once kids are out of the nest, it will lower immediate COL and free up more $$ to retire, for a double-whammy (in the good way).

    2. My vision of retirement would change if DH weren’t around — a LOT. Right now, I want a big retirement kitty to travel the world, early. That wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without him around. So I may well work longer, and then stay closer to home on vacation.

    3. Similarly, DH and I separately would have different priorities. Our natural inclinations are for him to spend money and for me to find ways not to spend money. If he is not around, I become my mother. Plus I place a much higher priority on being near the kids than he does; without him around, I see the Meme route as my retirement future.

    These last two, btw, are absolutely what I’ve seen in my mother. We thought she’d travel the world (my stepdad was always the stick-in-the-mud homebody). But she has taken less exciting travel than ever without her travel buddy to share it, and frequent interaction with her grandkids when she is in town is a much ,more critical part of her life than ever.

  40. So sorry I am very busy today at work and don’t have time for much! BUT

    Guardians – the likelihood of both parents dying in an accident at the same time is EXTREMELY LOW. Do NOT let that stop you from naming guardians or from doing a will!!! Name like 5 sets of people in a row if you haven’t talked to them or are dithering about who to name. Plenty of alternates = plenty of good choices. We have named DH’s brother and SIL (not local) with my brother and SIL (local) as the alternate, may switch that in future.

    EMAIL ME, L juggle atty at gmail if you want recommendations for lawyers. I have good referral names from several locations. Don’t do your will yourself! The legal zoom wills are terrible, I have seen some.

    Rhett – term policies usually have the option to extend for another 10 years. You could use that for your typical totebagger. We have 10-year term; i will prob get a new policy since was pregnant when 1st policy issued; we each have about $2M.

  41. LfB – I think that is a good point that retirement would look different if my husband died. We’ll probably buy a second home and spend winters in a better climate. Plus travel a lot. If he died, I wouldn’t do those things. And I would probably sell our family home and get a condo or something small near one (or more) of our kids.

  42. How do non-Totebaggers handle this problem? The idea that you hire a lawyer at $2000 for documents and then do multiple updates as needed is foreign to me. It’s hard for me to believe that the courts wouldn’t say, “Thank goodness these people left something in writing, let’s move on.”

    Analogously, it’s kind of like my thoughts about the risks of subpar/out of code electrical wiring in older New England homes. Probably most older homes don’t meet code and they are obviously not burning down. Is it worth investing in a low risk situation by redoing the electrical wiring?

  43. Rhett – I kind of see what you’re saying.

    What I find remarkable about your financial philosophies is how much you seem to value consumption smoothing. There’s a set amount you need to save; any less will fall short of a crucial goal, and any more is definitely overkill.

  44. I think I got advice from someone here (maybe L) that two separate people should be in charge of the kids and the money. So we named SIL as guardian since she has 2 girls close to DD’s age, and my brother to manage the finances. Even though SIL lives in CA, I can’t imagine choosing anyone else just for location, as long as they make sure she retains a relationship with my family. When we get divorced, I imagine the likelihood of both of us dying at the same time goes way down, but I guess we still need to change our wills. Naturally, I won’t leave everything to him now, so should I set up a trust for DD? Could he designate the same trust? Could this trust be used to hold the rental property that neither of us wants to sell yet?

  45. WCE: We’ve done no updates to our will, and I can’t forsee any future changes. My thought is that if it’s contested, it needs to hold up. I don’t want it to be invalid because of some technicality. If you have life insurance, you will most likely have a large amount of funds to pass on and that might bring out the crazies.

  46. From what I have seen, most non-Totebaggers don’t do anything. And then a family members steps up and takes the kids. Grandma or sister or stable cousin. But, we fret over everything here and this is at least as important as the health benefits of watering down juice and making sure the kids are in the best-suited school.

  47. WCE – ita. The response is always something like “well you don’t want fights if that happens.”

    1) it would not be a big fight in our family.

    2) I could make an argument that all potential candidates would actually make a more optimal decision about guardianship should the situation arise than if we try to assume what people would want to do. (Eg, maybe SIL would decide that she absolutely wants to retire and SAH with our kids when faced with the situation.)

  48. OK, so you’re insuring against the risk that you die at the same time AND the will is contested. That’s a risk that, given my family, I’m OK not insuring against.

  49. From the non-totebaggy wills DH has done (their pro-bono office targets the lower middle class, not the poor), they’re relatively simple. Maybe they have life insurance, but not always, and generally don’t have as many different retirement/non-retirement accounts to deal with. He’s done them for a few elderly women, who in trying to gather up all of their assets, have presented him with actual stock certificates that they dug out of the attic.

  50. We have named a good childhood friend and her husband (though we did specify if she is not around, then he doesn’t get the kids.) They have 2, slightly older than ours and she is a SAHM. This conversation felt a lot different when we had one perfectly formed being to bestow on some lucky person/couple – but now we have a pack, and it would take someone comfortable with military logistics to integrate them into their home. The friend lives across the country, but she and I talk 2-3x per week. She doesn’t parent always the way that I would, but I know she would love my kids with all her heart, and is willing, and I think that is enough. My second choice has decided she is “one and done” and is living a glamorous expat life – we probably need to change that – she could never fold our kids into her home.

    For those of you that have parents named now, but will change that as they get more frail, how do you see it playing out if the unmentionable happens tomorrow? My mom (70) would love to have my kids, and could manage them for the next few years. However, when she has a an 11,9,7 year old in a few years that she can’t handle – how on earth would she find someone to replace her? Would my friend (who hasn’t talked to her in years) step in? Would grandma understand it is time? I would imagine the legal hoops to transfer guardianship would be a huge thing to undertake if you are barely managing to get the kids to school everyday and care for an 80 year old husband. DH and I each have a brother who have made it clear that they do not want their lives cluttered by children.

    I really think that this is a situation of “start as you mean to go on.”

  51. I think most people don’t worry/care about death so when they die they end up screwing their children. And most people have very little life insurance, if any. I’ve seen many instances where the family can’t pay the funeral home because the 10k benefit was left to the minor child, who can’t have the money until 18. The family doesn’t have the funds to pay, so they end up making monthly payments to the funeral home.

  52. “actual stock certificates that they dug out of the attic.”

    The guy from Vermont, former service station attendant, JC Penney salesman, part-time janitor, died with $9M of paper stock certificates in his safety deposit box.

  53. Hijack/update:

    To those of you who shared stories about having your child undergo neuro-psych testing and encouraged me to do the same for my quirky guy – THANK YOU! We got a broad overview of the results last night, with a more detailed report to follow soon. The tests ruled out some not so great things – spectrum disorders, immediate need for medication – and all in all was positive, so DH and I are relieved. We have a very bright, not-so-easy-to-parent child on our hands and may need to change schools. Nothing new there, but now we have additional resources and avenues to pursue. Thanks again for the support and allowing me to vent my frustrations when needed.

  54. Cool! At this point, all 3 of my kids have had the testing done. My second kid gets one done every 3 years as part of his protocol (and insurance pays!). He has pretty much the same results as yours – really smart, very intense, some anxiety, but nothing that needs meds or counseling. Funny how he is the one most at risk of issues, but has the fewest.

  55. WCE – most employer sponsored LTD plans have a 2 year own occ, followed by any occ until ssnra. The any occ usually will have a specific earnings attached. Such as you can expect to earn 60% of your predisability earnings. So if you are a typical totebagger, working hourly shifts at McDonalds will not give you a salary of 60% of what you had….so you could still remain on disability longer than 2 years.

    If you want you can pass along his LTD certificate to CoC to forward to me. I can look it over and break it down in layman’s terms.

  56. lemon, thanks. I should look into what we have more, maybe. I’m not really a Totebagger, because stuff like this always falls below “What shall we have for supper?” in terms of what I worry about.

  57. ATM – Glad to hear it was a positive experience. I found have clearer actionable items made it much easier to deal with!

  58. ATM – awesome!

    WCE – for simple wills and nothing else it is closer to $500 if you get a solo practitioner. It is more if you need revocable trusts. IME it is prudent to get both life insurance AND have revocable trusts if you have young kids, so that they will be provided for with no post-death complications.

    SWVA – check your state law. In many states marriage revokes a will, so you will need a new one regardless. If you have a joint trust you would now need your own trust.

  59. Timely topic for me- RioBaby is on the way. We need to majorly up our life insurance amounts. We also need to talk about guardians. Our siblings are all unmarried and a bit young for the responsibility at this point, though we’ll probably switch to one of them when they hit that life stage. For now I’m thinking maybe a cousin who has a good marriage and young children and a happy family life. They don’t have a lot of money (by Totebag standards anyway) but I’m guessing the idea is the guardians can use some life insurance money to buy a bigger house and manage increased expenses?

  60. Congratulations, Rio! Please email me through CoC if you’re willing to have personal contact. As we’ve both observed, we have a lot in common.

  61. “If it’s worth it to hire a lawyer, how do you find a good one? Ask lawyer friends for recs? And what is a reasonable price range to expect, assuming nothing too complicated and that we are efficient with providing materials, etc.?”

    I asked L. Long story is she gave me a name of someone via her network. She recommended someone who works at a large established firm. Turns out her kids went to my kids’ HS; I know the guy whose office is right next to hers, and that firm represents an org I work with on some deals. Total all-in price is ~$2k.

  62. Good going ATM. Congrats Rio !

    At this point I am less concerned about the ideal school situation etc. for my kids, should anything happen to us. I feel that there have been quite a few years with parental grounding and guidance and I feel confident that our siblings would continue to provide more of the same. Everything else is secondary.

  63. A comment about naming one person (or couple) to care for your kids, and another person (or couple) to manage your kids’ money: This can be a good idea in some circumstances. But be careful. It is very stressful to be a guardian, and the guardian doesn’t need the added stress of having to constantly beg for money from whoever is controlling the purse strings. I sometimes wonder how it plays out in practice when the guardians are from Mom’s side of the family, and the financial overseers are from Dad’s side (or vice-versa). Are you sure the two sides are going to get along over time? Are you sure that the kids and/or the money won’t be used as leverage to try to get the “other” side of the family to do what you want them to do? Even if the two parties get along now, there can be a falling-out down the road, and you don’t want your children’s guardians to be in a position of having to ask for money from people who don’t like them.

    My personal preference is to either have the same person both take the kids and manage the money, or else have a neutral third party manage the money, rather than a second family member. YMMV, of course.

  64. We have changed guardians as situations have changed. Our first guardian was my college roommate and her husband, as we were all living in the same town. But now we are 5 hours away and it’s important to me that our kids are able to stay in their same school, etc. So now the guardians are my parents, but there is a trust and that is administered by my brother-in-law. However, as my parents get older we may switch again.

    We are general believers in over-insurance, so there would be quite a bit of money if something happened to both of us. About half of it is meant to be available to the guardians to use for raising the kids. The other half gets distributed to the kids on certain birthdays, with final payout on their 30th. Depressing to think about, but good to have in place. It cost us $1500 in legal fees to have the documents prepared (2 wills, 2 trusts).

  65. ” it is closer to $500 if you get a solo practitioner.”

    yeah, I’m thinking ours was 300 or 400

  66. DD, I think it can be a big deal to ask someone to be a guardian. It can inject awkwardness or hard feelings into a relationship if the request is denied. Or worse, some people will feel pressured or feel confident about accepting when they really should not.

    I think a lot of it is how you ask.

    “We’d really like you to be the guardian for our children if anything should happen to us. We know you’ll raise them the way we would, and there’s nobody else we’d be comfortable with.”

    vs.

    “We’d really like you to be the guardian for our children if anything should happen to us. We know you’ll raise them the way we would. We understand that this is a huge undertaking, so please take your time to think about it, and we will not be offended if you decide that you aren’t comfortable with it.”

  67. “Milo – going for #4 huh? You are braver than us!”

    ?? Do you know something I don’t? We’re congratulating Rio, not Milo.

  68. SWVA, make sure you change the beneficiaries on your 401k, IRA, etc. A lot of people forget about those when they get divorced and their ex-spouse ends up inheriting quite a bit of money that was supposed to go to the kids.

  69. Oh, God, sorry no. I first tried to say that the collective “we” were due for an update on Rio’s real estate search, in the “charm” vs. “McMansion” debate. I left a word out, and tried to clarify in the next post.

  70. NOB- I’ve had a very rough pregnancy so far, though fortunately baby and I are healthy. Main problem has been extreme all-day sickness. Not quite hyperemesis level, but enough that the unisom+B6 combo is needed to maintain minimal functioning. If this wasn’t so miserable and going to end in getting huge, I would say that it’s the most effective diet ever. Effortlessly wearing the “skinniest” clothes in my closet for probably the last time in a very long time, but feel too rotten to enjoy that.

    Milo- our current neighborhood and apartment is set up really well for a baby (and DH likes that his 3 minute commute means he can easily get home quickly if/when needed), so unless we find the perfect opportunity house hunting is on the back burner for probably a year or two.

  71. We have dawdled on getting our wills/trusts done. I have the request for information from the attorney but we haven’t started…maybe after summer?

    We’re past the guardianship stage except for our youngest (15). He’d go to one of DW’s sisters and her husband. They have two kids, cousins of his, the same age. All good.

    Life ins: I have >10x annual income with the combination of privately owned term and group life thru work. DW has more like 5x. My term expires when youngest is 19. Not too worried about renewing that because by then we should be close to debt free, our portfolio will be large enough to cover anything reasonable, and I expect the work-related insurance to still be in force (since retirement for me is still 9.5 years off)

  72. What I find remarkable about your financial philosophies is how much you seem to value consumption smoothing.

    I think it’s a valid concern. It’s like you and the lake house. You could spend the money now, get the house, get a ski boat, etc. and enjoy it with your kids. But, you figure there will be time enough for that later. But, later comes and the kids and grand kids are in Seattle and Denver with their own activities and with your bad knee you can’t really get in or out of the boat so easy… Later came and the ability to make it happen had passed.

    Not that you should totally live in the moment but it’s something to keep in mind.

  73. Rhett: We spend more on vacations that what I view as ideal using the exact same philosophy. We like to travel with the kids, so why not do it when they are still with us?

  74. “How do non-Totebaggers handle this problem? The idea that you hire a lawyer at $2000 for documents and then do multiple updates as needed is foreign to me.”

    Agree that most don’t. From what I’ve seen, people don’t make wills — they simply put the relative they want on their bank accounts or house title and make them the beneficiary of their insurance policies and 401(k)(s). Basically, the state writes a “will” for everyone — you need to write your own only if you want to do something different and have enough assets to make it worthwhile. And bank accounts and IRAs/401(k)s and insurance policies all pass directly to co-owners or beneficiaries, without even the need of a will. So if that’s all you are dealing with, and you make sure to have the right beneficiaries/co-owners on each of those things, that’s probably fine. Sure, you go through probate and all — but you’ll be dead, so what do you care?

    I think your electrical analogy is apt, because it depends on both the amount of resources you have and how you rank your priorities for using them. I can afford to worry about the old wiring in my house, because I have food and shelter and doctors and schools and such covered already. In the same way, I also have sufficient “extra” resources to spend figuring out whether the state’s default “will” is really the right one for our family.

    And then on guardianship, it’s a lot higher on our priority list than others’, because the risk of the metaphorical house burning down is higher. If I just had DS, I would have spent almost no time worrying about this — he is super-easy, and we have local family who would be fighting over who gets to raise him, so why should I spend time and money worrying about which of my great options would be the best? But I have another kid whom I love more than life itself, who will drive most people bat-shit crazy within a month (the SIL I originally wanted turned down the guardianship request just because she knew she couldn’t handle this specific kid. And this was long before puberty hit). So I *have* to devote more resources figuring this out, because if I don’t, our reasonable-worst-case scenario is some seriously bad ju-ju for one of the people I love most in the world.

    So it’s kind of like DS is some ’70s-era wiring, where maybe I should think about replacing it but we’ll probably be ok, but DD is knob-and-tube, with an asbestos-covered boiler in the basement for good measure.

  75. “But, you figure there will be time enough for that later”

    This makes me think of the book Still Alice (just read it)…she thought there would be time for x and y in retirement and then dementia got in the way

    also makes me the of the quote (not sure who said it first)

    “The trouble is, you think you have time.”

  76. Oh, Rio, I’m sorry that you haven’t been feeling well. When I was pregnant with #1, I always wondered why they called it “morning sickness,” since I felt just as lousy in the afternoon and evening as I did in the morning. I hope you get some relief soon. Are you willing to share yet when you’re due?

  77. Congrats ATM and Rio — those are both awesome things.

    “Later came and the ability to make it happen had passed.”

    Precisely DH’s (ultimately persuasive) justification of the Mustang now vs. the Porsche in 10 years. . . .

  78. Congrats Rio! I wish you smooth sailing, and that you get through this all-day sickness soon.

    I worry about guardianship because we are far from all of our family. And we don’t have friends that we know well enough yet. And those we do just aren’t people we’d like to see raising our son. I know my mom would step in right now, but that’s short term. DH wants his older sister, but I know that their younger sister will choose her, so the older sister is off my list. Oddly, I think the best choice may be the parents of the kids for whom we are guardians.

    Life insurance needs to be upped. We have enough for DINKs, but now probably need to double just to make sure DS has college and living covered.

  79. I don’t want to be too specific about due date on here, but should be a winter baby. Based on my mom’s history, I hope to be feeling better in a few weeks. I have a probably irrational fear that I’ll be one of those unlucky ones who is sick the entire pregnancy. I am also in awe of (and very envious) of the women on “I didn’t know I was pregnant.”

  80. Congratulations, Rio! We truly are the same person :) –that is EXACTLY how I felt–it was horrible but not quite bad enough to be HG. I actually lost weight during the first trimester also and it was brutal.

    Do any of the Houston folks have recommendations for estate planning lawyers? We desperately need to update our wills now that Baby June is here. We’ve been stalling because we’re not sure who to choose as guardians. L, I may email you also.

  81. Sorry, June. We used an attorney in Dallas. If you want her info, we can go through CoC.

  82. “could spend the money now, get the house, get a ski boat, etc. and enjoy it with your kids. But, you figure there will be time enough for that later”

    Of course there’s the practical tradeoff where I point out that renting leaves us free to do more varied experiences, it’s possible that I also feel like what I can accumulate through investment compounding is a form of demonstrating success and achievement, even if it’s only to myself. Maybe that’s compensating for some sort of insecurity.

  83. Thanks, Houston. We’ll probably try to find someone local. We do have one name, but it was a secondhand recommendation so we’re trying to get a few more.

  84. Congrats Rio! I had morning sickness with my last pregnancy until about 16 weeks. And I woke up one morning and it was gone and never came back! Pregnancy is so weird. I, too, don’t understand people who don’t know they are pregnant.

  85. Congrats Rio! I hope you feel better soon! I had nausea in both pregnancies too – in fact, that is how I figured out I was pregnant with #2. It was weird – I just felt seasick all the time. I couldn’t eat anything except white rice. I lost a bunch of weight, especially in my first pregnancy, and get this – at the end, I was only up 10 pounds over my prepregnancy weight. But guess what? In both cases the seasickness went away around the 14th week.

    That movie the Blair Witch Project was out during the period that I was so nausous with #1, and I remember that someone at work was showing me clips. The movie was famous for being shot with a handheld so it all looks really shaky. after a couple of clips, I had to run for the ladies room. Even now, when I see references to the Blair Witch Project, I get this flashback feeling of queasiness.

  86. Congrats Rio! With baby #1, the morning sickness hit and while it was generally just morning. The smell of most food cooking made me feel ill. I lost weight in the first tri, but was just slightly over my starting weight (but not SHAPE) by the end. Baby #2, no morning sickness to speak of.
    Good luck with getting rid of it soon.

  87. Congrats, Rio! I had the all day sickness with all 3 pregnancies. Luckily the kids and I survived it, but it was rough, indeed. I didn’t even enter the kitchen for several weeks at a time due to the various smells and my sensitivity. I hope you’re feeling better soon!

    WCE– Due to home values where we are, we did a trust just to keep out of town relatives from having to deal with probate over the house. Keeping them from having to miss way too much work and time at home was worth the cost to us. We also wanted paperwork done because I have a crazy side of the family who (a) would smell money and come fishing around and (b) would be *terrible* for our kids. So we needed a very firm, if less-than-perfect plan because the alternative was disaster.

  88. Tulip and LfB, your logic makes sense. Any of my siblings would be fine custodians and it’s possible our crew would be split up, since both my brothers had their families between our twins and Baby WCE. I can see the boys becoming adults faster if we kick the bucket while they’re in high school and moving in with my single sister, while elementary-school-age Baby WCE gets actual parenting from brother and SIL.

    We’ve been through a bunch of deaths/inheritances and the relatives with the wherewithal to contest a will would not want to raise our children and have significant assets of their own. They’d be more likely to contribute money for the kids than try to take it from them.

  89. ” it’s possible our crew would be split up”

    How common is this for non-step, non-half, minor siblings?

    I can’t really imagine it.

  90. My two pregnancies were quite different — with #1 I had lots of nausea, but very little fatigue; with #2, it was the reverse. But despite feeling and eating quite differently during my pregnancies, I gained exactly the same amount of weight with both — an even 40 pounds. It was as if my body had a set point for pregnancy, and it was going to put on 40 pounds, no matter what I did. Luckily, the doctors and nurses weren’t at all judgey about my significant weight gain. The weight did come off each time, eventually.

  91. Milo, I suspect the sample size of families with two functional parents who both die and leave several children behind is contaminated by the far-greater number of half/step/single parent families. We drive without our kids about once per year. It’s possible that we’d both die in a car crash and all the kids would survive, but the Honda Odyssey death statistics suggest that’s not common.

    Y’all give me a hard time sometimes, but part of being a moderate worrier is only worrying about the right things. In response to LfB’s sympathetic post, I remembered that I’m still fighting with insurance and a company trying to send my 10 month old prenatal test bill to collections. I tend to deal with problems when they happen (or are reasonably likely to happen)

  92. but the Honda Odyssey death statistics suggest that’s not common.

    In fact, never:

    The Audi A4, Kia Sorento, Lexus RX 350, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Highlander and Volvo XC90, among midsize vehicles, scored an overall death rate of zero for the years examined by the study.

    The Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sequoia and Mercedes-Benz GL class were the large or very large vehicles that also had zero deaths during the study period.

    http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-hy-report-on-driver-deaths-20150129-story.html

  93. “How common is this for non-step, non-half, minor siblings?” — No idea, but it’s something we have had to consider. Our top two guardian options already have two kids. We have tried to set things up to minimize the burden of adding two more (i.e., we have @$2MM insurance + express authorization to use it for things like a bigger house, quitting a job, etc.). But I honestly don’t know if anyone would be willing to take on that amount of upheaval — even with “just” two more, it’s a huge change to the family dynamic. Plus, you know, the two kids together are like freaking kryptonite to each other — they are much nicer and easier apart; asking someone to take both of them is really like asking someone to manage another 3.7 kids.

    In the end, I think someone would take both — I mean, I’d do the same for my nieces and nephews in a heartbeat, period, and I assume they’d do the same. But it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of reason for, say, one of DH’s sisters to take each — the one who couldn’t live with DD has a son whom DS gets along with like gangbusters, and the other one has a daughter one year older than DD who is DD’s best friend among the cousins. So I can see them deciding that that would be the best way to keep things from being overwhelming — and they live maybe 10 miles apart and see each other all the time anyway, so it might even be the best solution.

    Gawd, this discussion is getting depressing.

  94. I’m loving this topic. This must be how Rhett feels about business travel topics. I’m such a nerd.

  95. We have our situation sorted out with this topic, so it doesn’t depress me or cause stress. The elder care topic, OTOH….

  96. I can’t imagine splitting siblings up, especially after they just lost their parents. I would take as many kids as a family had and enlist all of the help that we could afford and hopefully somehow middle through.

  97. I could understand splitting the sibs up in the examples mentioned, large age difference and being in close geographic location

  98. From friends who’ve adopted, I’ve understood that it’s easiest to add a youngest child to an existing family. I’m not sure it would be good for my nieces and nephews to suddenly have three older brothers. I also expect that losing their parents would mature my sons- they’d turn to each other in that scenario, and they might or might not become surrogate fathers for Baby WCE. Mr WCE’s grandmother was married at 15, so I think they’re capable of being adults at that age. One of my high school friends was ~8 years older than his younger brother, and his Dad died when younger brother was 2, so my friend did Pinewood Derby, etc. with his younger brother and fixed stuff around the house when the rest of us had Dads doing it.

  99. Family size is a huge issue, though. I know that the discussion came up of who would be able to add on three children (in addition to kids already at home). It’s a big change, especially for our relatives who are “one and done.” It’s something I’m sure our family would do in the case of a catastrophe, of which both of us suddenly dying at the same time would certain qualify. When I find this topic too horridly depressing, I remind myself that the odds of this happening are vanishingly small.

    Then again, I work with a woman whose husband lost both his parents in a plane crash as a child. To this day he insists that when they fly, they take separate flights. And while I know statistically it’s unlikely to happen, I don’t blame the guy for the emotional reaction!

  100. I’m sorry to be late to the discussion today.

    I thought we had the issue of the money going to a third person and the kids going to another solved in our last discussion. I believe very firmly that the money should be accessible to the guardian through a trust for the benefit of the kids. I don’t think it would have tax consequences for the guardian if it is in trust. The guardian could be the trustee.

    In short, I think it’s unfair to saddle your guardian with your kids without funds to support them.

    L will tell me if I am wrong. The key, though, is the trust.

  101. “I can’t imagine splitting siblings up”

    I don’t have to imagine it since I lived it after being orphaned at a young age. Obviously it was no bed of roses, but we survived and even benefited in some unexpected ways. One silver lining was that my niece and nephews became like siblings, yet I was still able to stay close to my siblings who didn’t live with us.

  102. “I also expect that losing their parents would mature my sons- they’d turn to each other in that scenario, and they might or might not become surrogate fathers for Baby WCE.”

    Sounds like the premise of a TV drama for the YA crowd (which inevitably includes DW :) ) You’d have the responsible, fatherly older brother who’s working through his mechanical engineering degree at the local land grant university while also looking after the family. Then there would be the brother who has a heart of gold but is a bit more of a wanderer since Mom was the only one who really understood him, so he writes bad songs to play with his garage band and doesn’t always do the dishes like he’s supposed to.

    Separate show…What was the deal with Dylan McCay? We’re both his parents deceased?

    Stay golden, Ponyboy.

  103. Our money would absolutely be accessible to the guardians of our kids. We have it so they can use the $ to buy a bigger house, pay for schooling, hire a nanny, etc. And the trustee knows to be generous with the guardians. I would want it to be a financial windfall to the guardians if they take on the huge burden of raising our kids. I just don’t think they are the best ones to actually manage the money.

  104. “In short, I think it’s unfair to saddle your guardian with your kids without funds to support them.”

    ITA. I figure if I trust them with my kids, trusting them with the money is far less significant.

    That said, one of our second-in-line guardians is, fundamentally, a fidjit with money. And given that we have $2MM in life insurance, plus other assets, I’d be PO’d if said fidjit ran through all of that on stupid stuff and left the kids no money for college, etc.

    So we do have the kids’ trust with a different (shared) trustee system, which includes the guardian and the most fiscally-rational people from both sides of the family (one guy being next-in-line CFO at his company). And we wrote a separate side instruction letter with very clear instructions for liberal use of those funds for things like homes and schools, etc. The goal was more “resource” than “stick-holder,” drawing on the strengths of the various people involved — so the “new parents” can focus on parenting, and the money people can focus on developing a liberal-but-affordable budget, with $$ left over for college and such.

  105. DH wants his older sister, but I know that their younger sister will choose her, so the older sister is off my list.

    Why?

  106. Dylan McKay – swoon. His mom lived in Hawaii. His dad was in prison and then maybe died?

  107. Sounds like the premise of a TV drama for the YA crowd (which inevitably includes DW :) ) You’d have the responsible, fatherly older brother who’s working through his mechanical engineering degree at the local land grant university while also looking after the family. Then there would be the brother who has a heart of gold but is a bit more of a wanderer since Mom was the only one who really understood him, so he writes bad songs to play with his garage band and doesn’t always do the dishes like he’s supposed to.

    They did this show back in the ’90s – Party of FIve.

    “The show, set in San Francisco, centered on the five Salinger siblings (the “party of five” referenced in the show’s title), who become orphans after their parents are killed by a drunk driver. 24-year-old Charlie (Matthew Fox) is the eldest, a womanizing, immature manual laborer who struggles with the responsibility of being the new head of the family. 16-year-old Bailey (Scott Wolf) is the once-rebellious teen turned responsible caretaker—and later-turned-substance abuser. 15-year-old Julia (Neve Campbell) is a sensitive teen; 11-year-old Claudia (Lacey Chabert) is a precocious child prodigy; and baby Owen is barely one year old.

    The siblings take over the running of their family’s restaurant, Salingers. Charlie initially serves as bartender and manager, and later Bailey takes over. The struggles the Salingers face over the years include Charlie’s battle with cancer in Season 4, Bailey’s battle with alcoholism in Season 3, Julia’s dealing with domestic violence in a relationship in Season 5, and the long-term effects of parental loss.[2]”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_of_Five

  108. Oh yeah. I never got into Party of Five, but my brother always talked about it because his dorm was obsessed.

  109. I think there a tendency to forget that your retirement money will not be spent on your retirement if you die early. That will be a chunk of change.

  110. “Luke Perry is 48 :(”

    But divorced and single. Could be your safety net if that alimony fell through.

  111. I look at this issue from the other side, a bit. I’m certain that my DIL would pick her parents and then maybe her sister as guardians for any future kids. I would be nervous about our ability to see the grandkids, though I know that we get along okay with her parents at the moment. I’m fairly positive DSS would never pick his mother as guardian. We might be toward the very end of the line, actually, since they have some friends they’re very close to in the way one is while one’s still in one’s 20s.

    Last time we did the will/trust stuff, DSS was still a minor and it was just so unlikely that both DH and his ex would die at the same time that we didn’t worry too much about guardians. We picked DH’s responsible sister, but who knows what would have happened. We are just this summer re-doing that whole will/trust thing because with DSS married and on his own, it was time to focus on other stuff. Our lawyer made a convincing case that we should leave all our money to DSS in trust so that should he divorce, DIL won’t have a claim on it. Lawyer also seemed to think it was ridiculous to leave the money unencumbered to a 27-year-old — she argued we should put restrictions on it til he’s 40, or something. DSS is a very responsible young man and frankly, if he wants to buy All The Ferraris, why shouldn’t he? We won’t be around to care. But he’s such a miser he would never do that, so we didn’t worry about a spendthrift trust or anything like that.

  112. Is that what Luke Perry still looks like? Today? NFW. So not fair. Holy wow bejeebers.

  113. Rocky – I’m sure that she genuinely believed that restrictions to age 40 would be prudent, but managing them would also be a source of revenue for her, no? We all have a natural bias toward over-emphasizing the necessity of our own work.

    DW’s retired HR aunt doesn’t hire any contractors without personally verifying that all the employees have workers’ comp insurance in place.

  114. If we were to somehow become guardians for one set of our siblings kids, we would have to significantly adjust the food we keep in our house due to their allergic kids. Also, we would have to be prepared for what seems like frequent emergencies. As much as my kids want their cousins to visit, I feel anxious having the cousins over without their parents around.

  115. DD’s best friend’s dad died suddenly yesterday at 37.

    I dont think there is any life insurance.

    The child is only 6 and mom has been SAH.

    I know they will get social security, but that isn’t enough to keep the house.

  116. “make sure DS has college and living covered.”

    CoC, do you know how FAFSA deals with orphans, or more generally, college students who don’t have parents? Are their guardians’ assets and income required?

    I’m thinking that, at least the way things are now, making sure your kids have a college fund if you die when they are very young is not a high priority. They will have need-based aid available, and the adversity they encounter will help them get accepted to colleges that are generous with aid.

    It’s far more important to make sure their needs are covered through HS.

  117. “How do non-Totebaggers handle this problem?”

    It’s pretty common among non-totebaggers, although it often doesn’t involve death.

    A typical case might involve a single parent who is imprisoned, or is unfit to parent due to a drug addiction. Non-totebaggers tend to be much younger when they start having kids, so often what happens is 40-something or 50-something grandparents take over, supporting the kids out of whatever income stream they have.

  118. “What shall we have for supper?”

    That’s not something I worry about. As part of emergency preparedness, especially during hurricane season, we always have a lot of canned food on hand, so we know we can fall back on Spam and rice or canned soup.

  119. “If it’s worth it to hire a lawyer, how do you find a good one?”

    Besides the usual asking of friends and relatives, we checked with our brokerage, who had vetted local attorneys and recommended three practices. Two of the were solo, and both were older than DW and I; so we ended up going with the third, a practice that has expanded since then and which is much more likely to still be around when we die.

  120. I’ve been out today, just catching up. I would think that a sole UMC breadwinner who wants to provide for his wife and three kids in the style to which they have been accustomed would carry about $5M of life insurance. I know several women (now in their late 70s or early 80s) were widowed very young and neither had to work outside the home nor find another man. The figure 50 years ago was a million in life insurance. If the point of life insurance is to replace the income stream for the family, $5M yields 200-250K per year.

    No one would have taken my 4 kids as a package. They would have been split up.

    Because of the sudden onset and diagnosis of DILs illness, I thought a lot last year about my grandkids – not where they would go if both parents passed away – I assume her brother and sister in law are the guardians – but more how DS and I would combine forces and funds to bring them up. Doesn’t look like that is something we need to worry about currently.

  121. Mémé’s comment emphasizes a point I’ve been thinking about but wasn’t sure how to bring up. When two parents aren’t available, due to death, disability, divorce, or long term absence (think military service parents with multiple deployments), grandparents, even older ones, can be ideal to fill the gap. In trying to help my impulsive twin with his impulsivity, I read that a parent is first a commander, then a coach, then a counselor as a child ages. An involved adult may not fill all these roles. While the roles overlap to some extent, it has been helpful for me to think about my weaknesses as a parent in this context.

    My mild-mannered SIL would lovingly add Baby WCE to her brood but would be overwhelmed by the addition of all four at once, especially impulsive twin. My Dad probably won’t live to help my sons make graduate school decisions but as one of three boys and a girl himself, he would be well-suited to helping my single sister manage the dynamics of three boys for the next decade, at least.

    One of my friends has taught full-time while her husband has worked out of town frequently. He has been laid off three times and her role as breadwinner was not their plan. Fortunately, her parents live nearby and her Dad seems healthier at 80 than he did at 70, in part perhaps due to caring daily (but not all day) for one (usually, due to spacing) of her kids with his wife.

  122. Meme – in the same vein as your post, I think if DH were to handle our kids solo, he would cut some extra curricular activities out because the logistics of dealing with school and everyday needs of the kids would fill his plate. The kids would still be fine, just without a few things, I think are important but he does not (or anyone else caring for the kids in my absence).

  123. Generally speaking, the assets and income of legal guardians are not included when assessing an orphan’s need for college financial aid. However, I would not want my children to have to rely on need-based aid since it leaves them with much more limited choices.

    Another issue that I don’t believe has been mentioned is the possible financial disparity between the deceased parents and the guardian. It could go either way, but since we’re totebaggers it’s more likely that our children would land in a home of lesser means. This could present challenges, and unwanted changes in your child’s lifestyle. Would your child continue his fancy summer camps and expensive extra-curriculars while his guardian’s children experience a more modest lifestyle?

  124. ^ I gave examples of what may be considered more frivolous expenditures, but what about expensive therapy or other treatment for disabilities?

  125. Rio, congrats!!! I hope you start to feel better soon.

    We are going to update our documents after reading this post because they were created about ten years ago when I was working full time. Some of our financial stuff is not current. We were aware of the possibility of dying together because we used to commute together on the same train etc. This is not a concern now because it rarely happens now.

    Our choice for a guardian is my aunt/uncle because they live in our town, and they are much younger than my parents. I’ve explained the choice to my father because I don’t want my parents to be surprised. I think they would really understand now as they experienced health issues in the last ten years that would make it more difficult to raise a teenager.

  126. DD – on Party of 5 – Owen was Charlie’s son; to answer your question – DH’s little sister is set to have twins any day now (I suspect today or Sunday… but those are just guesses), and their older sister could not handle 3 boys born 5.5 months apart. I know it’s highly unlikely that both DH and I and his little sister and her husband would go altogether, ok, miniscule, but I just don’t know…

    I may need to reevaluate my decision making paradigm on this one… The obvious choice is this older sister (her DH is DS’ godfather). And the chance of little sister and her DH dying together is very low until he retires from the military. And if they say no, the next obvious choice is my single BFF (DS’ godmother). But she’s single – and if that doesn’t change, would she want to be a single parent?

  127. Rhode – If she’s already a SAHM, how much marginal cost can a third child possibly add? While I agree with the value of a comfortable house and yard that meets your family’s needs, I think she ascribes way too much importance to staying in that particular house, especially when she puts that burden on the fact that her young kids had to move once and now call this house their “home.” Good grief. People move all the time and survive.

    The reason she shouldn’t have another kid is because her brain’s not firing on all cylinders.

  128. Yes, Sarah Scott is the only person not to have everything she wants. So she needed to write an article. The navel gazing is just too much.

  129. Milo – not her snowflakes. They would move and have an unsafe backyard, be forced to (possibly) share a room, and eegads, mom would *have* to return to work. The family would crumble into despair, requiring, the horror, a modest lifestyle.

    Seriously, two of her kids can share a room (assuming it’s a 3 bed 2 bath home). And it’s not like they don’t have the baby gear either. Babies only cost however much you want them to cost. It seems that they have already fully funded their retirement, so diverting a squidge more to the college fund won’t make them destitute.

    I can’t wait for her kids to read that article in a few years… everything’s permanent on the internet. “Thanks mom, for choosing a house over a child… you rock my world.”

  130. I guess one could compare sharing a bedroom to the tenement communities of NYC. The Newport Wealthy did flee the city every summer to escape the heat and the poor with their shared bedrooms.

  131. “Thanks mom, for choosing a house over a child… you rock my world.”

    Or reading it thinking, “That’s why we had to listen to you bitch about not having any money 24/7? Because you insisted on living in that white elephant of a house?”

  132. The thing is, he’s talking about the dignity of children having their own bedrooms, not at home, but when they’re traveling to visit the grandparents.

    I’m just thinking of how excited my kids get at the idea of going on joint vacations with their cousins and sharing the big kids’ room with a bunch of bunk beds. None of them have ever shared a room at home, so there’s no novelty in having your own.

  133. I’m with Milo — if you’re already a SAHM, what’s the incremental cost of a third kid? Some diapers? Maybe the kids have to go to a state school or take out more loans? Also not following how “selling the timeshare” means “no more vacations” — because, what, the timeshare is the *only* place in the whole wide world where this particular family is allowed to go on vacation? Take the money you’re spending on timeshare dues and rent a condo in Ocean City for a week already (unless that’s just too plebeian). She needs to be more straight with herself: “We cannot have a third kid because I am not willing to make the lifestyle adjustments that would be necessary to do so.”

    “I think if DH were to handle our kids solo, he would cut some extra curricular activities out” — I think this is a good point, too. As with the will/guardianship Q above, we currently devote a certain amount of resources to kid activities, because we have the time/energy/money to do so. But that doesn’t mean they’re necessary, or that the world would end if my kids couldn’t do those things any more because our circumstances changed. I suspect my kids’ daily lives would look very different without me and/or DH here, but they would still be loved and cared for, which is what really matters in the end.

  134. The incremental cost to the SAHM parent of anther child is a lot of work for the SAHM parent. I think that was the real meaning of the article.

  135. the Sarah Scott article is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read

  136. I’m sure those dealing with infertility and loss are so SORRY that they just simply can’t afford a 3rd child. I hear a violin playing somewhere

  137. “DD’s best friend’s dad died suddenly yesterday at 37.

    I dont think there is any life insurance.

    The child is only 6 and mom has been SAH.”

    Such sad news Sky

  138. I actually think babies and kids cost a lot of money and money is a good reason not to have more. But, she’s just insufferable. No one plans like they do and no one buys their own house on their own, so how could we possibly understand her desire to have another child when she can’t because of the house she just had to have. It doesn’t sound dramatic enough to say that “I actually prefer a nice house to another baby. I still want another baby, but when push comes to shove, I want the house more.”

  139. “However, our story comes with a deeply rooted secret.”

    Except now I’m telling the whole world. Gah, insufferable. A third kid does not cost that much more if you are staying at home anyway. My BIL/SIL just had their third baby, BIL stays at home, and they figured why not add one more. The kids don’t have college savings, but they don’t seem that concerned about it, and I assume they’ll make it work somehow.

  140. According to her blog (shocking that she has one), her husband has lost his job (again) and they are moving (again).

  141. It’s probably the college costs that they’re considering. My mom wanted three kids but they decided they could only afford two. College was the big expense they were worried about. And my poor mama didn’t even have her dream house to compensate! Tragic.

    WRT that big house for the grandkids — in the 19th century my great-grandfather decided to keep his huge house in Corning, NY in case one of his several daughters needed to move back home. And indeed my great-aunt Helen married a no-goodnik, had two children, and then got dumped. She moved back to the Big House until she scouted up her second husband. That would have been 1930 or thereabouts.

  142. @Cat — I think babies and kids cost a lot of money *if* you want them to. I guarantee there are parts of their household budget that could be cut to cover the basics of a 3rd (diapers, clothes, doctors, basic consignment equipment/toys). Heck, she already has two kids, on whom she is probably spending a bunch of money; if she really wanted both another kid and the house, she could cut back on their activities/clothes/stuff to cover the third — basically pro-rate from 2 to 3. Which is what most people do in the real world anyway. I feel like siccing Michelle Singletary on her.

    So what she’s really saying is “I don’t want another baby if I have to do it on the cheap/cut back on what I spend on my other kids.” Which is a perfectly valid decision, btw. But the whining is annoying, because she’s acting as though none of this is in her control, when all of it is. The house is a red herring.

  143. I feel like there has been this big shift in the middle class over the last generation as far as prioritizing expenses, and it may be that college is so expensive now, that people just throw their hands up and say why bother saving for it. Combine that with nonstop HGTV/home decor blogs and it seems like the whole country is constantly renovating and decorating their houses (and I’m thinking about my SIL/BIL who just did a small renovation to carve out another bedroom in their house, because their kids couldn’t possibly share a room).

  144. According to her blog (shocking that she has one)

    I can’t find it – can you post a link?

  145. She seems like the worst House Hunters wife ever.

    Husband: Our budget is $350k and we can’t go even a dollar over that!

    Wife: Eye roll – I’m comfortable with a much higher budget.

  146. “There’s dignity in each child having their own bedroom”

    Ya know, my kids aren’t much into dignity — they’re more into fun. We just fit 9 people into 4 bedrooms, with little cousins piled on the floor with the big cousins, DD sharing with my mom, etc. Kids had a *blast* — the little guys were so excited to be in with the big kids, the big kids were excited to be looked up to, etc.

    My dream house would have sufficient private bedrooms for the grownups and maybe older teen kids, a big bunk room next to a big play room, and a library and nooks and windowseats, etc. Sufficient privacy for introverts/those who need it, and big rooms for people to spend time together comfortably.

  147. Hey, the Supremes upheld gay marriage. Between that and yesterday’s Obamacare ruling, I expect to see Scalia’s head explode in beautiful Technicolor.

  148. In our neighborhoods the older homes that have not been maintained are torn down and new houses built on those lots. Mostly though older homes have been remodeled until there comes a point where even further remodeling, more maintenance doesn’t improve the home, so tearing it down is the best thing.

  149. I may have to find a way to work “That’s applesauce!” into regular conversation.

    Part of why we have a different financial person appointed is that difference in financial situations. Our relatives with less would love our kids, and I trust forever, BUT they don’t manage large amounts of money. I think it would be hard for them to figure out where we wanted them to spend more—not that we want to prevent them from spending. I’d want money to go to camps, to things to prepare for college, if anything was left for a downpayment on a home, etc. I know the folks we have asked to do the $ part of things would encourage spending for the kids.

  150. I thought about building a house for my upcoming move so that I could get exactly what I want & need, nothing more, nothing less. However, my team of personal advisers have convinced me that this is not the right time in my life to build my dream house. I haven’t lived alone in 20 years – I don’t know what I want & need. The Scotts live in Richmond, VA – I’m not sure what his career is, but it’s not like they don’t have more jobs there. If they do have to move away, there’s nothing that says they can’t build the same house in another location. Or buy a smaller house and have that 3rd kid.

  151. I’m not sure what his career is, but it’s not like they don’t have more jobs there.

    I’m guessing from his conviction that they need to sell the house ASAP that they have no savings.

  152. I don’t trust women who have to contort themselves and the camera to odd angles before appearing in a picture.

  153. DD – on Party of 5 – Owen was Charlie’s son

    No, he was the baby brother. Charlie took over raising him when their parents died.

  154. “I think it would be hard for them to figure out where we wanted them to spend more—not that we want to prevent them from spending.”

    You could write it down, so if it ever came to that, they could refer to your guidance.

  155. I expect my kids’ guardian(s) would spend money to provide the lessons, etc. I want for my kids as well as their own kids. Paying for swimming, sports and music lessons for everyone seems like a trivial contribution to their families. I don’t think it would be a healthy family dynamic if the WCE kids got to go to swimming lessons and not the other kids in the family.

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