Making an Estate Plan Is Not Unlike Changing a Diaper

By February 26, 2014 No Comments

Diapers happen.
Photo: S.B. Lueders

A little over a week ago, my 2-year-old hopped on the potty train and has not glanced back. As I was folding that final load of clean diapers in laundry room, I got to thinking about how diaper changing and estate planning are not all that different.

  • Nobody wants to think about it. Estate planning and diaper changing are not exactly taboo subjects, although neither topic is likely to make you a sought after dinner party conversationalist. Before my son was born, I washed and carefully folded my stash of cloth diapers, but I didn’t direct much mental energy toward imagining just what those piles of snowy white cotton cloth would contain once the diapers started to see some action. As new parents, concerns about future potential disability and mortality don’t have the immediacy of, say, dealing with a well-used diaper. Making an estate plan that lets your loved ones know who you want to care for your kids when you can’t is the responsible thing for a new parent to do, but it involves thinking about unpleasant possibilities — and making a lot of tough decisions.
  • It deals with the inevitable. You know the old saying, usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes?” Estate plans are one way to be prepared for both. Plan for what you can; life is full of plenty of surprises. And when you’ve got a new baby in the house, nothing is certain but dirty diapers (and probably not getting enough sleep).
  • Consider what would happen if you skipped out. I recognize that elimination communication is a viable method of never dealing with dirty diapers, but the waste still needs to go somewhere, and you, intrepid new parent, are the person who gets to deal with it. The ability to set your baby on a rug and not be left scrubbing a pile of poo is a good thing. Skip writing a will? A court will likely need to be involved before your kids can access whatever resources you leave them, and the person who ends up appointed as guardian to raise your children might not be the person you wanted to have that responsibility. Or, your family may be left arguing over who you wanted to take care of your kids and what you wanted to happen to all your stuff.
  • It’s part of taking care of your kids. Feeding a baby and changing diapers are infant care at its most basic. Writing a will providing for your kids’ care in the event you’re not able to be there is among the basic responsibilities of being a parent. Neither one is terribly glamorous. But there is nonetheless a satisfying sense of accomplishment from getting both done.
  • There is no one correct answer. Disposable, diaper service, or wash at home? There is no single right way to diaper, as long as some receptacle is attached to the output end of the baby. The disposable / cloth diaper debate does not have a definitive “right” answer as to which approach to diapering is best — and I write this as a cloth diaper aficionado. I made a decision for what type of diaper was right for my family. Likewise, developing an estate plan involves making individualized decisions based on your personal values. In making your estate plan, much like choosing a diapering system, the issue isn’t as much a matter of making the absolute right choice as it is discovering which choices are right for you.
  • Your current strategy will be outdated before you know it. Sooner or later, diapering will be a hazy memory. Potty training happens. Your brother, who you nominated as guardian for your daughter, moves to Australia, and your Aunt Maude dies and leaves you her share in the family farm. Suddenly, your estate plan is as out-of-date as a nap time diaper change. A general rule of thumb is to review your estate plan every five years — longer than a diaper plan, but sooner than you think.

This post is for informational purposes and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be used or relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting with an attorney.

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