estate planning checklist vacation | California Estate Planning LawyerAs we head into summer and the kids (or grandkids) are now out of school for summer break, you may have already been thinking about or even booked a vacation.  Whether you’re going out of town, out of state, or out of the country, there are always a lot of things to do before you leave.  

From figuring out where you’re going to stay, what activities you guys are going to do, what to pack and if there’s anything else that you might need before then.  Do this for one person, but then multiply it by the number of people in your family; it can be stressful and exhausting trying to manage all of this.  The thought about estate planning probably has no consideration on this vacation To Do list.  However, many travelers purchase travel insurance to protect their vacation investment in case of bad weather, medical emergencies, travel delays, or other unpredictable circumstances.  Just like travel insurance, estate planning is also the “insurance” for the unpredictable “what ifs” in life.

Here is a list of Estate Planning “Must-Do’s” before going on vacation:

Get an Estate Plan in Place.

First and foremost, if you have not done any estate planning at all, it is important for you to get something in place.  This could be a Living Trust—which is the most appropriate estate planning vehicle for most people, but it may also be a Will (along with a Power of Attorney).  Through this process, you determine who will be in charge if something happens to you (either illness, disability or death).  It will also determine how your estate will be distributed in the event of your passing.

Review Your Estate Plan.

If you already have an estate plan, before going on vacation, it would be good to get your plan reviewed by an attorney and make sure that it is up-to-date.  An out-of-date estate plan is just as bad (sometimes worse!) than none at all.  During a review process, the attorney can determine if there’s been any changes in laws or planning strategies that make sense for you.  Also, he or she can review whom you’ve chosen to be in charge of your financial affairs and medical decisions and who will get what and when.  Relationships change over the years and what may have made sense when you originally got your estate plan in place may no longer make sense.  You also may have just put a Will in place and perhaps a Living Trust now makes more sense.  There are lots of advantages of having your plan reviewed on a regular basis.  We typically recommend it every 3 years.  (Download our Free Report: “Why You Should Review Your Estate Plan”)

Pack Your Health Document Emergency Card.

A Health Document Emergency Card is a card provided to all clients of Kavesh, Minor & Otis when they first get a Living Trust designed by our firm (or sometimes when they review the Trust they have).  There is an on-going renewal fee associated with this card, but it can be included in certain upgrades to your estate plan when you come in for your review.  This Health Document Emergency Card is an important card to have in your wallet at all times, but especially when you travel.  If something were to happen to you and you were to be rushed to the hospital, this card would provide doctors and medical staff right away with the necessary legal documentation and information they would need to properly care for you.

HIPAA Authorization.

Included in our estate plan is a HIPAA Authorization, which gives access to a person of your choosing to your medical records and to even have discussions with medical professionals about your care should something happen to you.  While you may be travelling with the individual you’ve named to have access to your medical information, you may not.  There may be a benefit to having a HIPAA Authorization put in place that would allow your traveling companion(s) to be able to receive and have access to medical information should anything happen to you during your trip.

Guardian Designation.

If you have children under the age of 18, you will also want to plan for your children should something happen to you.  Again, during a review of your overall estate plan, this is something that will already be addressed.  You may also wish to have someone physically in charge of your kids and another individual (or institution) responsible for managing financial matters for your children and overseeing your children’s inheritance until they become of adult age (or even beyond).  Additionally, if you are the caretaker of an adult family member is who disabled and unable to take care of him or herself, a guardian designation by that family member of his/her legal representation would help ensure of this individual’s care should something happen to you. 

Proof of Parental Rights.

If you are going out of the country with your minor children, it would be advisable to have some proof of your parental rights (a copy of either their birth or adoption certificate). Officials are vigilant about preventing child abduction and you may be asked to show proof of your parental rights.  This is particularly advisable for same-sex couples and adoptive parents who may be targeted by officials to show proof.

Check Your Beneficiary Designations.

Regardless of how you might set up your estate planning documents for how you wish your estate to be divided among your family and loved ones, there are certain things that you must do to ensure that your assets are properly distributed.  For example, your IRA and retirement accounts typically have a Beneficiary Designation Form.  Similarly, insurance policies also work off of beneficiary designations.  You may wish to check and verify what the beneficiaries are for your accounts and ensure that you have the right beneficiaries in place, consistent with your Living Trust or Will.

Proper Titling of Assets.

A Living Trust is a stand-by legal instrument that goes into effect should you become disabled or pass away.  A major part of how a Living Trust works involves a process that we call “funding” of the Trust, which involves retitling of assets into the name of your Living Trust.  Failure to do this can result in a court process known as Conservatorship (while you’re disabled) or a Probate (when you pass away). To avoid these lengthy and expensive processes, it is important to make sure that all of your assets are properly titled into the name of your Living Trust.  (NOTE: Even if you once did this before, it is a good idea to still verify the title of your assets.  For instance, refinancing a mortgage can often involve retitling your property to your name and escrow or loan companies may fail to retitle it back into the name of the Living Trust.  This is an area we have seen often results in an unintended Probate of an estate!)

In conclusion, it may feel overwhelming to add estate planning to the ever-growing vacation “to do” list, but by taking the necessary steps to ensure that your estate planning matters are in order, you can also enjoy your vacation with the peace of mind knowing that should something happen to you (which we certainly don’t anticipate), all is taken care of for you and your loved ones.  Also, when you return from your vacation, you can also continue on living your life knowing that things are up-to-date and handled without worrying about it for a few years until it is time to review your estate plan again.  As we say in all of our Living Trust seminars, procrastination is the “silent killer” of estates, creating unnecessary chaos, headaches and expense. Take care of your estate plan now and enjoy your trip!

Do You Need To Speak With An Attorney About Estate Planning?

If you need to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer please contact us online or call us directly at 800.756.5596 to first register for one of our free, informative seminars. Your attendance will qualify you for a special discount for our estate planning services should you decide to make a free appointment at the conclusion of the seminar and choose to proceed with us. We proudly serve clients throughout California with offices in Torrance, Newport Beach, Orange, Woodland Hills and Pasadena.

Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.
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