A unique kind of meet and greet
As a pediatrician, I do a lot of meet and greets—those meetings that patients set up with a potential pediatrician to learn about their practice and philosophy. I try to give people information that will be useful to them during these meetings. I think that’s what a pediatrician should do.
I tell new parents that having your first child is like crossing the Rubicon. There is absolutely no going back. You are now responsible for more than just your own life. You are responsible for a new life that you are choosing to bring into the world, and that’s a very big responsibility.
When my husband and I had our first child, we consulted financial counselors who gave us some good advice and I share that advice with my patients. I have a list of what you need to do and go through it with them.
Will. You need to prepare your will and figure out who will be the legal guardian for your child. Parents always want a say in the custody of their children. You want to be in the position to make that decision, not whoever happens to be left behind.
When I bring this up to patients, sometimes they tell me they don’t know who they want the kids to go to because his sister is a nightmare and so on. My point is that especially in those situations, you want to be the ones who make that choice. You don’t want to leave it to chance.
Creating a living will, which designates who can make your medical decisions if you aren’t able to make them yourself, is part of the will process, too.
Life insurance. You need to get life insurance. If you’re a solo parent, for yourself, and if you are raising children with a spouse or partner, for both of you, even if one of you stays at home.
If one of you dies, you need enough money to pay off the house and to cover your expenses for two years. It costs more than you can imagine to replace all the work that a stay-at-home partner does.
Sometimes people will say that they have life insurance through their work, and I’ll ask, “Just curious, how much do you have?” They will say something like $25,000. And I’ll say, “Good, that will get you through the funeral.”
I had no idea how expensive it would be to bury my husband and wade through all that needed to be done. It is far more than most imagine and not a time in your life when you are really able to cut corners, let alone be forced to sell your house or try to find a new job.
Documentation. You both need to have all of your accounts documented and written down. Where do you have retirement accounts? What kind of insurance do you have? You need to know the names and numbers of your accountant and your lawyer—people like that. All of that stuff.
Make sure it's in a place where if you die, your spouse can find it easily and if you and your spouse die; your brother-in-law can find it.
Relationship status. I push hard on the couples that aren’t married. If you’re with somebody but not married, especially if you don’t get along with their family, you can be excluded from every little bit of this process, including not being able to visit your partner in the hospital.
The less codified your relationship, the more you should document what your wishes are. After someone dies, it can get really complicated really fast.
Having a baby is a natural transition point and a good time to make all these changes.