Contemplations on estate planning, wills, and death

I’ve thought a lot about death since I was quite young. For the longest time, I had attended more funerals than I had weddings. In our family, we never had babysitters, so as kids, we had to go literally everywhere with our parents. So when someone died and my parents attended a funeral, Ed and I were taken along, too. I still remember asking my mom when I was young if we were going to die, too. She replied and said that yes, everyone has to die, but hopefully we will all live long lives, and it would not happen for a long, long time.

The thought made me so sad. I remember many nights, when I was around 4 years old, crying myself to sleep, thinking that there could possibly be a world I’d live in where I no longer had my mom, dad, or Ed. It filled me with so much fear and anxiety at such a young age. I thought to myself, how was I supposed to live without you all, my family? I was especially attached to my mother then, and it hurt me to the core to think that she could possibly die one day and leave me behind.

Since then, I still think about death often — when there are plane crashes, school shootings (always in the U.S.), when someone in my life dies. The hardest death was, of course, my brother’s. I remember having to change a lot of my beneficiary information on accounts after he died… you can’t really leave money to someone dead, right? So now when I am forced to think about my own death and planning for it with estate planning and wills, it becomes depressing in a very different way.

You have to ask yourself uncomfortable questions, like if you and your spouse die, who is supposed to become the legal guardian of your child? If that legal guardian is also gone, who is the secondary, backup guardian of your child? If you, your spouse, and your child die, who should receive your assets in the event of that family catastrophe?

So while once upon a time, I didn’t think about my own death much, you’re forced to do this, *just in case*; in the event of the worst thing happening, as in you and your spouse both dying, you know that your minor child will be taken care of and will not be forced into the broken and disgusting system that is the U.S. foster care system.

It is my hope that I will outlive my parents, that Chris and I won’t die until we’re far past 80 years old, that Kaia will outlive both Chris and me. I hope no one ever has to make use of all the estate planning and wills until we’re nearly 100. But we live in an uncertain world. And as the Terrible, Thanks for Asking podcast recently noted, in life, there are very few fair deaths. “You are lucky if you can say, “someone I love died at the exact right time in the exact right way and everyone involved was ready for it.” This might apply to people like Chris’s two grandmas, both of whom had lived long, relatively happy lives. They got to see all their children get married, have their kids, and even see their own great grandchildren. But in cases like Ed or our friend Raj, death was not fair at all, and it was untimely in the most painful way. We can only hope that we will live lives that will end with fair deaths that are a long way away from today.

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