Amidst the chaos and excitement of preparing for a getaway, it is easy to forget to plan for more than just fun in the sun. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all well aware of the risks involved with traveling. Luckily, there is special planning that you can do ahead of your departure that can save you and your loved ones back home from a great deal of difficulty if the unthinkable happens.
Part I of this two-part series covered four estate planning tips for being a smarter and more prepared traveler. In this article, you will learn four more tips that you should know before you go.
#5 Organize your accounts and documents.
This is an excellent thing to do before you travel, as it will make things much easier for those who you have chosen to handle your affairs on your behalf should anything happen to you. Make a list of all of your accounts, where they are located, and the user names and passwords, then review and update it before each trip. Print a hard copy in case your computer is stolen or crashes and let someone you trust know where to find it. Clean up your computer desktop and put your financial and other important files where someone can easily find them.
#6 Keep important documents accessible.
Nowadays, the internet and the “cloud” have made it so that there may not be a paper trail for even our most important documents. While going paperless may be convenient in the short-term, it can cause great difficulty for your loved ones back home if tragedy strikes while you’re on vacation. Without special planning, your loved ones will be left scrambling to locate your documents – a task that will be especially difficult if they are unaware that you’ve gone completely digital.
Your estate plan and personal documents must be easily accessible by a trusted person. While having these documents in digital form is great as a back-up, you should still have physical copies to ensure that your trusted person has immediate access to them. Important paper documents should be kept in a weatherproof container so they are not subject to physical damage. For example, many people keep their documents in a fireproof safe. Make sure your trusted person knows where your documents are located and that they have the combination or key to gain access.
#7 Establish a care plan for your pets.
To provide complete protection for your fur or feathered baby in the event of your incapacitation or death, consider a pet trust. Now, you might be thinking that having a trust for your pet is unnecessary, for your human loved ones will certainly take care of them on your behalf. While your friends and family members may be okay with looking after your four-legged (or two-legged) friend during your week-long vacation, they might not be willing or able to step into your shoes as a full-time pet owner.
With a pet trust, you can leave money to be used for the benefit of your pet, including their care and maintenance. Another major advantage of a pet trust is that it creates a legal obligation to care for your pet. In the trust document, you will name a designated caretaker for your pet, leave detailed instructions for how their care and maintenance should be carried out, and name an individual to go to court to enforce the terms of the trust if necessary. If the court finds that the caretaker failed to follow the conditions laid out in the trust or used the trust money for something unrelated to the animal, the funds will go back to the pet owner’s estate and the guilty individuals can face serious legal consequences.
#8 Remember there are special considerations for international travel.
In addition to your estate planning tools, there is other paperwork that you must have in order before traveling internationally. To be fully prepared, consider carrying the following with you on your trip:
- an updated vaccination record,
- a copy of your marriage license,
- a secondary photo ID in addition to your passport,
- proof of international health insurance,
- your child’s birth certificate (if you are traveling with your child), and
- child travel consent (if you share custody with your child’s other parent).
To recap, Parts I and II of this series covered eight estate planning tips for travelers. Remember, while taking a well-deserved getaway should be an enjoyable and exciting experience, having a plan in place to protect yourself and your loved ones back home is essential to ensure safe travels. If you plan on taking a trip and do not yet have a completed estate plan, use your departure date as a deadline. After all, the gift of estate planning will be worth more to your family and friends than any t-shirt or souvenir.