Travelers: Complete Our Estate Planning Checklist (Actually Relax on Vacation)
Travel broadens the mind, but it carries its share of stress. Whether you’re a frequent flier or going on a long-overdue vacation, you’ve likely got a million things on your to-do list before your departure. While it might seem less important than packing enough sunscreen and coordinating childcare, creating an estate plan is vital to add to your pre-travel checklist.
You might have left emergency contact information on the fridge and written instructions for your family on handling accidents or problems while you’re away. However, these notes aren’t legally binding—and they won’t ensure your wishes are respected if the worst happens. Our traveler’s guide to estate planning helps get your affairs in order, giving you peace of mind on your weekend getaway, work event, or month-long road trip.
Estate Planning: The Ultimate Travel Insurance
If you pass away or become incapacitated, estate planning is the only way to protect your assets and beneficiaries. If you’ve been putting off making a plan, use your upcoming trip as an incentive to get the paperwork done—and be sure to leave enough time to complete and file all of your legal documents. If you already have an estate plan, now is a great time to review it and update any outdated information.
At a minimum, estate planning essentials for travelers include:
You will need to designate certain people to handle your affairs. These people will play essential roles in the lives of your children, surviving spouse, and beneficiaries. If you don’t name people to perform these functions, the state will appoint someone for you.
It’s not worth the risk—choose the following people carefully:
- Guardians for minor children. If you have children under eighteen, it’s critical to legally document the guardian you want to care for your kids if you cannot. We have a dedicated Kids Protection Plan® to guide you through naming short-term and long-term guardians to step in the moment they’re needed.
- Named beneficiaries. Some assets don’t pass through your Will or trust, instead passing directly to a new owner through a beneficiary designation. Many people fail to update these after significant life changes such as marriage or divorce—and some never assign a beneficiary. Review the primary and secondary beneficiaries on your bank accounts, life insurance policies, retirement, pensions, etc. Or, you can fund those assets into your trust.
- Trustees and executors. Trustees administer your estate, and executors carry out the terms of your Will. Still, both have the authority to distribute assets to your heirs and directly control your beneficiaries’ financial futures. Always provide a list of candidates in case your original choice cannot serve, and keep it current.
Plan for the Unexpected
Planning for your passing is one thing, but making provisions for your sudden illness or incapacity can be even more difficult. It requires specific documents and designations that are not included in a standard Will, such as a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare and a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) authorization.
Without these, a relative will have to go to court to gain legal authority to make life-and-death medical decisions for you. An advanced directive in your medical file may provide guidance on your wishes for treatment, but it doesn’t grant anyone authority to make decisions on your behalf.
In addition, you may need to appoint a Durable Financial Power of Attorney authorizing someone to pay your bills and access your bank accounts. If you’re traveling internationally, you might need to include some resources to help your POA, such as the address of the U.S. consulate or a copy of your passport.
Finally, review the balances on your insurance policies and make sure all the premiums have been paid. Check the amount of coverage on your travel insurance, life insurance, accidental death policy, and long-term care insurance to see if you need additional coverage before leaving.
Prevent Family Conflict
Once you have a plan in place, make sure you communicate your plans to your loved ones. You don’t have to go over it in detail but tell them the choices you made and how you arrived at your decisions. Families who know what to expect are much more likely to get along (and avoid family court) after you’re gone.
Check With an Estate Planning Attorney Before You Get on the Plane!
We know how overwhelmed people get before going out of town, so we’re here to give you the assistance you need. If you need help securing assets, protecting your business, or appointing a guardian before traveling, we recommend you schedule a call or email us at email@example.com today and feel the stress melt away. We can even set up regularly-scheduled updates to your estate plan, protecting your loved ones when you’re at home, abroad, or anywhere your adventures take you!