The estate-planning lawyer shares her advice for how to prepare for unexpected life events and protect your family.
By Abby Hopkins, Illustration by Madison Weakley
Lawyer Iffy Ibekwe has seen unexpected deaths cause chaos for families. When her father passed away in 2004 without a will, Ibekwe watched her mother conclude the dealings of his estate by herself while grieving. Seeing her mother cope and hearing about others wrestling with the same struggles influenced her career path.
A practicing lawyer for 13 years, Ibekwe created her own estate-planning firm, Ibekwe Law, specifically to help women prepare wills, trusts and other legal documents to protect their families in the event of a death or unexpected emergency.
Ibekwe shares her tips for how to start thinking about preparing yourself and your loved ones for anything life may bring.
CONSIDER LIFE INSURANCE.
“It’ll never be cheaper and more accessible than it is at your age today. Life insurance is a great way of giving money to your loved one, even if you feel like all you have is debt. This is the sort of thing you could leave to your children in a trust, and it would carry them through college or buying their first home or a down payment on a business.”
HAVE THE HARD CONVERSATIONS.
“One of the biggest barriers I hear parents give is the fear of not knowing what would happen to their children if something were to happen to them and not wanting to have that conversation. I really encourage my families, even if they’re single parents, to think about it because it’s not as hard as you think when you get your thoughts down and have it shared with the parties that matter.”
SET UP AN ESTATE PLAN.
“The best thing to do is go to a licensed professional attorney and start talking through what ways you can plan for your kids and plan for yourself. These are the conversations you’ve had at home with your spouse or significant other, and then you can take those to the attorney and talk through what you would like to accomplish, and they can give you ideas of what documents you need.”
CHOOSE A GUARDIAN FOR YOUR MINOR KIDS.
“You can start as easily as writing a list of who you would want to take care of your kids [if something happened to you] and who you would not want to
take care of your kids. Also, have a conversation with potential guardian candidates to figure out whether they’d be up to it. Then you’d want to set up a guardianship nomination document for your children to make sure you have a plan in place.”
TRUST A PROFESSIONAL TO GUIDE YOU.
“Just like you could go on YouTube and figure out how to fix your car engine, you can find cheap ways to find out your estate plan. But the problem with doing things that way is you’re not a professional in that area. Go to someone who really does this and not just fits it in [in] addition to 12 other areas of the law.”