All children are special. There are no exceptions. Whether they have physical or emotional challenges, are fantastic athletes, nerds or brainiacs, timid or outgoing, or just plain ours, they are all special. Special people require special planning.
My sister and I never thought of ourselves as special. We were only us, and we have always been inseparable. Our father died when she was 4 and I was 5. My mother loved us dearly and would have done anything for us, but she contracted a severe neurological disorder about a year after my father’s death. Her disorder required that she spend months, and sometimes years, in neurological hospitals. Our mother, on top of everything else, had to then deal with “What should I do with ‘the girls’?
If you would have asked my mother or my father, what would become of us in this situation, they would have said, “Our extended family will gladly take care of you.” Our mother believed that what the family promised they would carry out. However it is one thing to make a promise, and another to keep it and take over the responsibility of bringing up two young children.
The truth is nobody wanted us.
My father died at 46, well before his time and with huge debts, as he had just opened a pharmacy in downtown Manhattan. Neither of my parents planned for this eventuality, and my father’s death left the family in bankruptcy. On top of her financial woes, my mother had to figure out who would take care of us while she was in the hospital. She asked her sisters. One sister told her she had raised her own children and did not want to take on anyone else’s problems. She suggested foster care and the State of New York to take over care of the ‘brats’. Mom’s other sister would have taken us but her husband refused to let us in his home. My father’s family pretended they no longer knew us. My mother was in despair. Even though we were very young, and my mother did not share her fears with us, my sister and I knew what was going on. We were terrified.
As I look back upon these times with the eyes of an adult, I think about the “What ifs?” What if, instead of being paupers, we were the beneficiaries of a large life insurance policy? My experience tells me the family would have stood in line to take us, because they would have been able to benefit from those funds. Hindsight is 20/20. There was no life insurance and all of my parents’ savings and investments went to the bank.
Despite the crazy times, my sister and I turned out fine. She became a doctor and I became a lawyer. Even so, these experiences provide important life lessons; the main one being, “Plan Ahead”… and take no one at their word. We must provide for our own children because no one may want them if the worst happens. Control is the definition of our planning. How do parents plan for this type of eventuality and still achieve Control?
Foundation estate planning solves this dilemma. Life is fragile and none of us will live forever. It has always been my goal to see that no child in any of my client families have to survive the challenges my sister and I faced.
Call our office today to learn more about planning for your special children. We are here to help. You can reach us at 480.296.2036 or at Ilene@gandmlaw.net
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