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How to Prepare for Every Parent's Worst Nightmare

Being pregnant can produce all kinds of anxiety. I'm trying to remain calm, I'm doing yoga and breathing and taking baths, but I have this one worry that I can't shake. What if all goes well with this pregnancy, we have our son and then my husband and I both die in a horrible accident? I have no idea if this is a common fear but my ever practical attorney sister was adamant that we make wills and determine guardianship. Up until now, I have ignored her. But as my due date draws closer and closer (74 days to go!) I've been taking life and death more seriously—and you should too if you haven't already.

Here are the three biggest things you need to take care of, just in case:

Make a Will

Wills vary state to state so make sure you do your research. You don't necessarily need a lawyer to draw up a will unless your needs are complicated. A visit to your local public library or local public law library can help you locate the forms and templates you need to draft your own will. Typically libraries will only charge for the printing of the forms. Nolo Press books have excellent resources in print and online and if you click here there is a list for how to make a will in all 50 states as well as advice on when you should consult a lawyer. (As a former law librarian, I highly recommend Nolo Press publications, they are incredibly useful and easy to follow.) One very important reason for parents to have a will is to determine what will happen to any surviving children under 18 years of age.

RELATED: Draw Up a Will in 8 Easy Steps

Pick a Guardian for Your Children

Ugh this is the worst. Who will care for your child if you and your spouse both die? If you haven't designated anyone yet it's probably because you are like, Who? Who do I trust?! The truth is no one is going to be a better parent for your child than you. Once you accept that, you can get down to the business of choosing the second best person. But you must choose because if you and your spouse both die your child will not automatically go to anyone and you need to specify guardianship in your will or the courts will make that decision for you. You should also have a backup guardian in case your first choice cannot take on the responsibility. Some things to consider when choosing a guardian:

  • Age - You may want your child to go to your parents but if they are getting on in years or have health problems that may not be a good fit, particularly for very young children. You can also name older guardians for a certain time frame and after the child reaches a certain age a different guardian can be named as the primary choice.
  • Similar Values - Who do you know that is most like you in regard to parenting styles, religious values, educational values etc.? You will want to choose someone whose outlook is similar to yours.
It's highly unlikely both you and your spouse will die but better to be safe and prepared.
  • Comfort Factor - Consider with whom your child has a close and comfortable relationship with already.
  • Financial Stability - Consider the person's ability to take on a child, financially and emotionally.
  • Other Children - Consider how many children the potential guardian has and if your child would fit right in or perhaps feel left out.
  • Money Management - Who will manage any property or money you leave behind for your child? This person may be different than the guardian and you can specify this in your will. For example, if your brother is great with kids but lousy with money you may want someone else monitoring the finances.

You may wish to discuss the guardianship with whomever you are considering ahead of time as this may provide information on how the potential guardian feels about being named. If they seem reluctant, it may change your mind.

Choosing a guardian is obviously a very difficult decision to make but you can always revisit it and make changes as your child grows older. Who we name now when our son is an infant may differ when he is a teenager.

Get Life Insurance

I had an irrational fear based on Lifetime movies that my husband would murder me if I got a policy, but with Jr. on the way I started worrying about what would happen if I die in childbirth? How will my husband take care of our son and work full-time? He'll need a nanny (An ugly nanny—that's in my will. I want him to mourn for an appropriately long amount of time) and childcare doesn't come cheap.

Life insurance policies vary but generally there are two kinds of insurance: term insurance and permanent insurance, which are often referred to as whole life or universal insurance. With term insurance you pay a set premium for a period of time and you get a specific amount of money, typically 10 or 20 years. If you don't die before then (good for you!) then you lose the premium payments when the term ends. But you will have had peace of mind knowing if you had died, your family would have gotten paid.

Whole life insurance policies cover insured individuals for their entire lifetime and you may also access a portion of the funds tax free while still alive. These policies are usually more expensive and it is generally recommended for young healthy people to get term life insurance.

RELATED: A Finance Guide for New Parents

Life Happens is a non-profit organization funded by insurance and financial companies that has an online calculator to help you determine your needs before you meet with an agent. It's awful to think you might die before your child grows up but I have found I feel better knowing that if I do check out early, my husband and son will be financially secure and my son will have a nice ugly nanny to take care of him.

So now that you are depressed and considering your mortality and what that will mean for your child or children, get to work writing that will and choosing a life insurance policy. You'll feel much better, I know I do. It's highly unlikely both you and your spouse will die but better to be safe and prepared. If you have your affairs in order please share anything I missed in the comments below.

Image via Twenty20/lelia_milaya

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