Being Prepared

My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer last week. The doctors have not given her a prognosis about how much longer she can expect to live, and we are very hopeful that she will be healed. She has started chemotherapy and will begin radiation therapy soon as well.

I am a former smoker and am concerned about the effects and potential genetic predisposition to cancer that runs in our family. My grandmother and aunt both died from lung cancer, and did not smoke except for social occasions. I have been thinking a lot over the past few days about my children and who would take care of them should I unexpectedly, or even through a prolonged illness, die.

When I was still married, my then husband and I talked with another couple about caring for our children should we both die at the same time. Since then we have divorced, I moved and have lost contact with those lovely people who agreed to raise my boys should it be necessary. My mom’s diagnosis brought me to the conclusion that I need to revisit how an emergency situation or long term illness would affect my children. The ex-husband may be the most obvious option to raise the children in my absence, but not all single parent families have that option if one of the parents is not involved in the child’s life.

I began compiling the following list to help plan for an unforseen emergency and help to make sure that our children will be taken care of in the future.

1.Write down In Case of Emergency (ICE) numbers and keep them handy for use. If you have a day-timer or palm pilot list ICE in a prominent place or under “I” and then list one or two people for an emergency official to contact. Children can start memorizing ICE names and numbers at about 4-5 years of age.

2. Estate planning to include the writing of a will. See the article titled “Why Every Parent Needs a Will” at the Baby Center. Estate planning can include assignment of guardianship for children, property assignment, and assignment of an executor of your estate.

3.Life Insurance. If possible purchase life insurance in order to help the child’s caretaker (even if it is the non-custodial parent) care for him or her, and provide for potential future needs such as education.

4. Leave written instructions regarding everything from how you want your children raised (religious preferences, college plans, etc.) to how you want assets managed and used to benefit and protect your children. These will serve as guidelines to help those who assume the responsibility of raising your children. Put these instructions in your will. (www.newyorklife.com/cda/0,3254,11303,00.html)

Thinking about your child’s future now can help him or her to deal with the grief of your loss more readily in the future.

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