What Harry Potter Can Teach Us About Disaster Planning
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There’s a lot to be learned from Harry Potter. True friendship, bravery, love. Why we need to fight evil and injustice. But one place where the magical world seemed woefully inadequate was their disaster and estate planning.
For a world fighting the ultimate evil, and with the experience and understanding of what that fight could mean, why weren’t our wizarding friends more prepared?
Here are seven ways we can learn from their mistakes.
Control Who Directs Your Child’s Healthcare
Throughout the Harry Potter series, there is no doubt that Madam Pomfrey is a highly competent nurse. But how many of us would prefer our petrified children be cared for by a nurse than a qualified healer? Why did Dumbledore make all those petrified children wait for Professor Sprout to have a healthy crop of mandrakes, instead of just sending them to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries where they surely could have gotten treatment more quickly?
Almost more terrifying, it doesn’t seem like the parents of Hermione, Colin Creevey, Penelope Clearwater, or any of the other children who were petrified by the basilisk were even notified of their condition. What if those parents preferred alternative care for their children?
Under Muggle law, it isn’t just anyone that can seek medical care for your child. If the parent isn’t present, doctors can only provide care in life-threatening situations. Or as directed by an adult who has been given legal permission to do so by the child’s parents.
If you’re a parent planning to be away from your kids – either for a business trip, vacation, or to send them to a dangerous magical boarding school – you need to complete a medical power of attorney. This form (which you can get for free) designates someone you trust to speak for your child’s well being while you rush to their side.
Don’t Let Your Financial Legacy Sit Idle
While James and Lily certainly left a sizeable nest egg for Harry (or, rather, James’ parents did), was dropping it in Gringotts the equivalent of burying it in the backyard? The wizarding bank doesn’t even seem to loan the money out or pay interest on its deposits. Surely that money could have been better utilized invested in some way.
Not to mention, who ever heard of turning a heaping pile of gold over to an 11-year-old? Wasn’t there anyone in the magical world designated to keep Harry from spending piles of Galleons on broomsticks, dung bombs and gold potion scales? Hagrid indeed held the reins on that first trip to Diagon Alley. But then Harry was left to his own devices.
Smart savings and investing, along with a life insurance policy to protect your family during peak earning years and while you have dependents, can help you leave a financial legacy. But if your spouse or children don’t have the knowledge and resources to manage those assets, it could be wasted. Or, at the very least, underutilized.
Especially if you’re a do-it-yourself investor, make sure to outline your investment strategy for your spouse and next of kin. Including steps on what to do upon your death or if you are medically incapacitated. And if your spouse isn’t comfortable with finance, leave a list of trusted financial advisors they could turn to. Because otherwise, they might just let it sit idle in a vault for ten years.
Be Prepared for Disabilities
Gilderoy Lockhart erased his own memories (bless him). Mr. Weasley spent several days in St. Mungo’s after being attacked by Nagini. The Longbottoms became permanent residents of St. Mungo’s after Bellatrix Lestrange tortured them into insanity.
Who is paying for their medical care and time out of work? For individuals like the Longbottoms, needs for care are permanent. Unless the Wizarding World has universal healthcare and disability insurance, this has to be costly for their savings and families.
Disabilities – temporary and permanent – are more common than premature deaths. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 1 in 5 Americans will become disabled at some point in their lives. And fewer than 5% of disabling injuries happen at work.
If you can’t afford many months, and possibly years, out of the workforce, you need short and long-term disability insurance. This can help give your family the income and support necessary to get you back on your feet. Without pulling from your Gringotts retirement vault.
Have Emergency Guardian Plans for Your Kids
“And what’s going to happen if Arthur and I get killed, who’s g – g – going to look after Ron and Ginny?” – Molly Weasley, The Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Any parent’s heart aches reading about Molly’s boggart, forced to see each of her family members dead in turn. But this line? Come on, Molly! You and your husband are wading into a wizarding war, and you haven’t made preparations for your kids care? The Order is unlikely to let them starve, as Lupin rightly points out, but that isn’t a plan.
From Harry’s circumstance, it seems like you can leave assets to minor children. But the Weasley’s barely have two Galleons to rub together. How would Ron and Ginny take care of themselves?
Whether or not you’re fighting the Dark Lord, if you have children, it is only responsible to name guardians for them if you and your partner die. There are now places, like Tomorrow.me, that let you get a legally binding will for free.
And if your kids need care temporarily or permanently, a well-developed disaster plan outlines essential things a non-parent caregiver needs to know. Like your child’s regular activities, contact information for their close friends’ parents, and favorite foods and bedtime stories. If an Unforgivable Curse hits your family, you’re going to want someone to keep life as stable as possible for your kids.
Even Magical Wills Aren’t Instant
The Ministry of Magic took 31 days to inspect Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore’s will before Scrimgeour brought the items to the Burrow and carried out Dumbledore’s wishes. Even though the will had been appropriately witnessed and validated by the Advocates of the Wizarding World.
And while Sirius’ will might not have been properly validated (how is a wanted man confined to his home supposed to visit a lawyer?), it seemed to take even longer to settle. Dumbledore didn’t tell Harry that Sirius had named him as sole beneficiary until late in the summer.
But even though Hermione claims Scrimgeour, “had no right to do that!” she isn’t quite right when it comes to the Muggle world. Having a will doesn’t prevent an estate from going through probate, it just makes the process happen faster. It can still take weeks or months to settle someone’s estate.
If your loved ones are waiting for assets named in the will to survive, they could be stuck out in the cold. Make sure your family has a plan for emergency funds as you wait for an estate to settle. Including how to pay regular bills, if one person usually manages the budget, and how to access all accounts for checking & savings accounts, investment accounts, and insurance policies.
There Are Fates Worse Than Death
No matter how it looks on TV, extreme life-saving measures aren’t magic. Codes don’t bring people back even half as often as TV shows, and movies like to portray. Extreme measures are just that – extreme. Like drinking unicorn blood. What happens in those moments isn’t often pretty.
And a dementor’s kiss may have been a wizard version of being stuck on life support in a permanent vegetative state. “You’ll have no sense of self anymore, no memory, no… anything. There’s no chance of recovery. You’ll just – exist. As an empty shell. And your soul is gone forever.”
A harsh assessment? Maybe. Yet, leaving the decision on your acute or end of life care to a family member is just passing the emotional burden. You’ll be asking your loved ones to make serious emotional decisions in an already stressful time. They may look back and never feel like they made the right choice.
Do your research and consider what speaks most to your desires. Then fill out an advanced directive and durable power of attorney, so your choice is your own.
It’s Never Too Early To Start Planning
James and Lily were killed at 21-years old. Sirius Black died just as he was building a relationship with Harry. We don’t know if Fred and George had succession plans for Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes before Fred died. Or if Remus and Tonks even had time to name guardians for Teddy.
Considering our vulnerability and mortality is never an easy thing. But “to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”
Choosing to prepare for the worst while we are able can be a great act of love for our family. It saves them time and effort when their mind is already burdened. Not to mention protecting your financial legacy.
“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
We may never know if the magical community’s rejection of ballpoint pens and modern paper extended to 3-ring binders, but luckily as Muggles, we have this cheap and efficient tool to organize our affairs.
A will and proper insurance policies do wonders to prepare us. However, they still leave more holes than a niffler in well-turned earth. A will won’t tell your spouse how to pay the bills or invest life insurance proceeds. It won’t allow you to choose who can seek medical care for your child. And, usually, it won’t outline your wishes for a memorial or burial service.
The In Case of Emergency Binder solves all that.
The ICE binder is an over 90-page printable workbook that puts all your crucial information in one place. Including family insurance details, medical information, childcare and pet care instructions, bills, investment strategy, and more.
Since your executor won’t be able to call “Accio!” when looking for your documents, keeping the information well organized will reduce stress for your loved ones. All the paperwork and phone calls after a death or disaster are overwhelming enough without having to search for what you need. And just remember, if looking at your file makes you feel like you were hit by a confundus charm now, it’s going to look like it’s written in Ancient Runes for your family members.
Take the time now to organize your affairs. Spend just a little time thinking hard about the tough stuff. It could keep your loved ones from needing magic to get through a tough time.
Magical or muggle, we’re all mortal. Let’s accept and prepare for it.
Click here to purchase the In Case of Emergency Binder. And organize your financial and home life for anything the crystal ball throws at you.
Bio: Chelsea Brennan is the founder of Mama Fish Saves, a personal finance blog that focuses on family finance, investing, and reducing money stress. Chelsea is an ex-hedge fund investor whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, including Forbes, Business Insider, Haven Life, and more.