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 be prepared and plan for the worst. Traveling often takes you out of your comfort zone with new experiences, foods, activities, etc., which can also mean an increased likelihood of mishaps, illness, injury, and even worse.
In light of this, it is wise to 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 four critical tasks to take care of before departing:
- 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. However, there are some ways of wording a beneficiary designation that might lead to results that you didn’t intend. These designations must be regularly reviewed and updated to match your goals.
- Create power of attorney documents
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 documents. You need two: a medical power of attorney and a 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. A durable financial power of attorney gives someone you choose the authority to manage your finances. If you don’t have these documents – or aren’t sure if you do – get them in place before you leave for vacation. If you do have power of attorney documents, review them to be sure that the people you named to make decisions on your behalf if you were unable to are still the people you want. (Maybe you had a falling out with a sibling or you notice signs of dementia in your parents – do you want them to be making decisions for you?)
- 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 you trust to care for your children—and potentially raise them to adulthood—if something should happen to you. It is also important to name people you trust to care for your kids in the short-term if your chosen guardians need time to make arrangements, travel, etc. There are other elements to providing a comprehensive care plan for your children. Naming guardians for your children is so important that we have a website for you to do it for free yourself. Just go to NJKidsPlan.info and provide your name and email and follow the prompts. Once you finish the process you will be emailed a pdf of the documents that you will have to sign. Be sure to follow the signing instructions!
- 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 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.
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—contact us.
We recommend you complete these tasks at least 8 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 to get started.