Going on vacation entails lots of planning: packing luggage, buying plane tickets, making hotel reservations, and confirming rental vehicles. But one thing many people forget to do is plan for the worst. Traveling, especially to foreign destinations, means you’ll likely be at greater risk than usual for illness, injury, and even death. No one likes to think of worst-case scenarios before a trip, but there are certain estate planning documents you should have in place before you leave.
In light of this reality, you must have a legally sound and updated estate plan in place before taking your next trip. If not, your loved ones can face a legal nightmare if something should happen to you while you’re away. The following are five critical estate planning tasks to take care of before departing.
1 | MAKE SURE YOUR BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS ARE UP TO DATE
Some of your most valuable assets, like life insurance policies and retirement accounts, do not transfer via a will or trust. Instead, they have beneficiary designations that allow you to name the person (or persons) you’d like to inherit the asset upon your death. It’s vital you name a primary beneficiary and at least one alternate beneficiary in case the primary dies before you. Moreover, these designations must be regularly reviewed and updated, especially following major life events like marriage, divorce, and having children.
2 | CREATE DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY AND HEALTH CARE PROXY DOCUMENTS
Unforeseen illness and injury can leave you incapacitated and unable to make critical decisions about your own well-being. Given this, you must grant someone the legal authority to make those decisions on your behalf. You need two such documents: Health Care Proxy and Durable Power of Attorney. Health Care Proxy gives the person of your choice the authority to make your healthcare decisions for you, while Durable Power of Attorney gives someone the authority to manage your finances. As with beneficiary designations, these decision-makers can change over time, so before you leave for vacation, be sure both documents are up to date.
3 | NAME GUARDIANS FOR YOUR MINOR CHILDREN
If you’re the parent of minor children, your most important planning task is to legally document guardians to care for your kids in the event of your death or incapacity. These are the people whom you trust to care for your children—and potentially raise them to adulthood—if something should happen to you. We recognize this task can be the biggest barrier to planning and cause parents the most angst. If you are having difficulty, we can help. We have never worked with a client who could not name guardians for their kids – even if it seemed impossible.
4 | ORGANIZE YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS
If you’re like most people, you probably have dozens of digital accounts like email, social media, cloud storage, and cryptocurrency. If these assets aren’t properly inventoried and accounted for, they’ll likely be lost forever if something happens to you. At a minimum, you should write down the location and passwords for each account, and ensure someone you trust knows what to do with these digital assets in the event of your death or incapacity. To make this process easier, consider using LastPass or a similar service that stores and organizes your passwords.
5 | LET YOUR FIDUCIARIES KNOW HOW TO CONTACT YOUR PERSONAL FAMILY LAWYER!
Your attorney and the crucial people in your life that will need to act on your behalf in case of emergency should know how to contact each other. If anything should happen, your attorney will have an inventory of your family assets and information needed to clearly identify and locate all of your financial accounts, insurance policies, etc. We also know important information like your medical preferences and instructions regarding your desires for burial, cremation, funeral ceremonies, organ donation, etc.
COMPLETE YOUR VACATION PLANNING NOW
If you have a vacation planned, be sure to add these four items to your to-do list before leaving. And if you need help completing any of these tasks—or would simply like us to double-check the plan you have in place—call us to schedule a consult.
We recommend you complete these tasks at least four weeks before you depart. However, if your trip is sooner than that, call and let us know you need a rush Family Wealth Planning Session, and we’ll do our best to fit you in as soon as possible. Contact us today by calling 305.707.7126 to get started.
This article is a service of Leslie V. Marenco, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.