Are you planning on going on vacation this summer? While having your estate planning affairs in order is always a good idea, if you plan on traveling this summer, it is absolutely essential to be sure that they're in order should anything happen to you while you are away.
Here is a quick checklist of estate planning documents that you should be sure have been recently prepared, reviewed or updated before you travel.
- A Will and/or Living Trust. At the minimum, everyone should have a Last Will and Testament in place. However, a Living Trust can be an even better vehicle for helping ensure that your family's assets are properly managed, protected and possibly distributed in the unexpected event that something happen to you while traveling. These should be reviewed and updated as changes may arise in your family, such as acquired real estate, marriages or divorces, births of new family members, and even changes in your relationships with people you have named.
- Guardianship and Care of Minor Children. If you have any children under the age of 18, you will want to be sure that you have the person or persons that you desire to take care of your children named to do so if something happens to you. You can also set up the necessary provisions to ensure that they are properly taken care of financially as well.
- Advanced Health Care Directive and HIPAA Authorization. In the event that something were to happen to you and you were to become hospitalized while traveling (or not), you will definitely want to be sure that you have an Advanced Health Care Directive in place so that you have the person you desire in place to make medical decisions for you in the event that you are unable to. Additionally, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (also known as "HIPAA") is a law that is intended to protect your privacy and prevent others from accessing your medical records. While it serves a purpose most of the time, it can also become a huge issue when you become incapacitated and need someone to step in place and speak to your doctors and access your medical information in order to assist you. A HIPAA Authorization will grant those that you name and authorize to have access to this information as needed to help you.
- Durable Power of Attorney. In addition to naming someone to help you with your medical decisions, you also will want to have a Durable Power of Attorney put in place to help you with your financial affairs. Should you be hospitalized and unable to return home, this person can step in and ensure that your bills and other financial affairs are properly taken care of until you are able to do so.
- Review of Life Insurance Policies and Retirement Accounts. If you have any life insurance policies or retirement accounts (like IRAs or 401k's), you may wish to review your beneficiary designation forms on file before traveling. Your relationships with those you first named when you purchased the policy or set up the retirement account may have changed, or you may have more family members that you may wish to include.
- Important Financial and Medical Information. Before you travel, it would be helpful to you and your family to gather all of the important financial (banking, checking, credit card), legal (Living Trust, Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Directives, etc.), and medical (doctor's names, medication, insurance, etc.) information and have stowed in a safe place that those who need to access this should something happen to you can do so.
Traveling can be stressful and this checklist is not intended to add to that stress, but wouldn't it be better for you to have the peace of mind knowing that you have these things in order before boarding that plane or ship and heading off on vacation? You will never know what may happen or when it will happen. Having your estate planning affairs in orders helps you better prepare you and your family for the "what ifs" in life.
Bon voyage and safe travels!
If you are going on vacation this summer, be sure that you have all of your estate planning documents in order. Come to one of our free Living Trust Seminars, where you can book a free attorney consultation to review your current estate plan or create a new one so that you can enjoy your vacation in peace, like you should! Click here to view our upcoming seminar schedule.