As the world slowly begins to open up again following the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are starting to feel like it is finally safe enough to take a much-needed vacation. We have been cooped up for over a year, after all, and we are more than ready to get back out there.
Whether you’re taking a trip to another state or another country, you certainly have a plan in place to protect your health and safety and that of your travel companions once you arrive at your destination. However, in the pre-vacation excitement, there may be a few things that you neglected to include in your plan.
In Part I of this two-part series, you will receive four estate planning tips that will help you be a smarter, more prepared traveler. Stay tuned for Part II to learn four more tips that you should know before you go.
#1 Have a completed and up-to-date estate plan in place before traveling.
If you do not yet have a completed estate plan before beginning your travels, use your trip departure as a deadline to have these documents finished. There are risks involved with traveling, and although the chance of something happening may be slight, it is better to be overprepared than not prepared at all. For example, ask yourself: does my estate plan include incapacity documents? An advance directive protects an individual’s medical treatment preferences in case of incapacitation. Another document, referred to as a durable power of attorney, establishes a healthcare representative, or healthcare proxy, that is authorized to make medical treatment decisions on your behalf.
For those who already have an estate plan in place, it is suggested that these estate planning documents be reviewed for accuracy. An estate plan should be revised whenever a significant life change occurs. This includes deaths and births of family members or loved ones, home ownership, and changes in marital status.
#2 Review your trust and beneficiary designations.
For many, the main motive behind estate planning is to ensure that their loved ones will be taken care of when they are no longer around. It is important to check – and then double-check – that your beneficiaries are up to date. Similarly, it is important to make changes to your estate plan if a beneficiary has died or if your preferences change regarding beneficiary designations.
If you have a living trust, make sure that it is properly funded and that assets are properly titled into the name of the trust. This will prevent the assets from being controlled and disbursed by the Court in the event that a beneficiary is a minor or becomes incapacitated. Failing to properly set up a trust can result in unnecessary time and court costs for your surviving heirs.
#3 Review and update your insurance.
Before you travel is an excellent time to do this. Check the amount of your life insurance coverage and see if it still meets your family’s needs. Consider getting long-term care insurance to help pay for the costs of extended care – and to preserve your assets for your family – in the event you or your spouse need it due to illness or injury.
#4 Review and update incapacity documents.
Everyone in your family over the age of eighteen needs to have these documents: (1) a healthcare power of attorney, which gives another person legal authority to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself; (2) a living will, which describes what type of life support treatment you want and for how long; and (3) a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) authorization, which gives written consent for healthcare providers to discuss your healthcare information with others, including family members. After all, you never know what you will need until you need it, so you should use the time you have now to plan for all of life’s what-ifs.
To recap, this article covered four estate planning tips for travelers: (1) create (or update) your estate plan before hitting the road, (2) review your trust and beneficiary designations, (3) review and update your insurance, and (4) review and update incapacity documents. Remember, although vacationing is truly meant to be all fun and games, that doesn’t mean protecting yourself and your loved ones can wait until you return to your nine-to-five. Stay tuned for Part II to learn four more estate planning tips that will help ensure safe travels.