A few months ago, Brent and I finally managed to complete a task that has been on our to-do list for—gulp—14.5 years. We had a will drawn up (and other sad-ish documents like a power of attorney, a living will, etc.). Why 14.5 years? Our oldest daughter is 14.5 years old, so we’d been saying we needed a will since she was born.
Why had we waited so long? Well, here are a few reasons, in no particular order:
1) It’s really not that fun to contemplate one’s own untimely death.
2) It costs money that we didn’t relish the thought of spending on something like that.
3) The feeling that our lives are uncomplicated enough that it just didn’t warrant a will.
4) This absurd notion: “That’ll never happen to us.”
5) Reluctance to ask someone to take care of our children in case we die before they’re adults.
We talked about getting by with a do-it-yourself will/software package (although how weird is the photo at left with the will alongside the chocolate?), but we couldn’t even muster the energy to do that. Something finally pushed us away from our inertia and we found a lawyer. Some of the stuff was easy. For instance, I knew I wanted a do-not-resuscitate order and I knew I trusted my sister (a doctor) to make sensible medical decisions for me. Appointing an executor was fairly easy as well.
The biggest issue, of course, was who to ask to be the guardians of our children. Geez, our kids are great and everything, but talk about a huge responsibility! First, we needed someone who would be capable of taking care of our kids. We needed someone who knew and loved our kids. Then—and perhaps most importantly—we needed someone who would be WILLING to take care of our kids. Last, we wanted someone who would raise our kids, well, the way we intend to raise them . . .
Except here’s what we realized: we can’t really dictate how someone would raise our kids in this case because we would be dead, right?
Or can we? My dad had a dear friend who asked him whether he would agree to be the guardian of his two children if he and his wife died unexpectedly. My dad considered it and then said “yes.” His friend, a Catholic, then asked my dad whether he would please raise them to be Catholic. My dad, a Mormon, considered that request and also said “yes.” He felt like it was important enough to his friend that he would be willing to take his friend’s children to mass, first communion, catechism classes, etc.
Going through the whole draft-a-will process made me remember my dad’s friend’s request. Can you ask someone to raise your kids in a particular religion?
My brother and I recently tossed the issue around. So in my dad’s case, he was Mormon and his friend was Catholic. That’s a pretty big request. But what if you not only want your kids to be raised Mormon, but you want them to be raised to be a certain kind of Mormon—be it more or less orthodox? What then? Is that a reasonable request to make of a friend or family member? For example, if you’re a less-than-orthodox Mormon, could you request that your orthodox brother or sister raise your children in a less orthodox way, or vice versa? Or how about if you’re not really religious? Let’s say your dearest friends belong to a very conservative religion. Would that get them bumped from your list of possibilities?
Where does religious affiliation fall on your list of things you’d want in the people you’d consider asking to be the guardians of your children? Is it your number one priority? Or does it even make the cut?