Already thinking about your summer vacation plans? Heading abroad for your honeymoon? Invited to a friend’s destination wedding?
Preparing to travel entails lots of planning: packing luggage, buying plane tickets, making hotel reservations, and confirming rental vehicles. One thing many people forget to do is ensure their estate planning documents are up-to-date. Traveling – especially in foreign destinations – means you will likely be at greater risk than usual for illness, injury, and even death.
In light of this reality, it is critical to have your estate plan legally sound and updated to avoid any legal nightmares if something should happen to you while you are traveling. The following are four (4) most important estate planning tasks to take care of before you depart:
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 through a will or trust. Instead, they have beneficiary designations that allow you to name the person(s) you would like to inherit the asset upon your death. It is vital that 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.
Create power of attorney documents
Outside of death, 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 through power of attorney. You need two such documents: (i) medical power of attorney, and (ii) financial durable power of attorney.
A medical power of attorney gives the person of your choice the authority to make your healthcare decisions for you, while a durable financial 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.
Name guardians for your minor children and/or pets
If you are 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 guardians are the people whom you trust most to care for your children – and potentially raise them to adulthood – if something should happen to you. Given the monumental importance of this decision, I have created a comprehensive system called the Kids Protection Plan® that guides you step-by-step through the process of creating the legal documents naming these guardians. You can get started with this process right now for free by visiting my user-friendly webpage.
Similar to naming guardians of minor children, you can also name legal guardians and caretakers of your beloved pets. With the proper legal documents in place, you can rest assured that your furry family members will always be taken care of.
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 are not properly inventoried and accounted for, they will likely be lost forever if something happens to you. At minimum, you should write down on paper the location and passwords for each account, and ensure someone you trust knows how to access this information and what to do with these digital assets in the event of your death or incapacity.
Complete your travel plans now
If you have travel plans, be sure to add these four (4) items to your to-do list before leaving. And if you need help completing any of these tasks—or would simply like me to double check the plan you have in place—consult with me as your Personal Family Lawyer®.