We are well into vacation season. Recently, several highly publicized tourist deaths have occurred abroad, showing us that the unthinkable can occur even while on vacation. These tragedies are an unfortunate reminder that life can change in an instant, which highlights the need for a comprehensive estate plan. Amidst the chaos and excitement of preparing for a getaway, it is imperative that you keep these estate planning tips in mind:
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. 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.
Does your estate plan include incapacity documents? An advance directive, for example, protects an individual’s medical treatment preferences in case of incapacitation. Another document, a durable power of attorney, establishes a healthcare representative, or healthcare proxy, that is authorized to make medical treatment decisions on your behalf.
Review your 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. As such, it is crucial to solidify the beneficiary status of your loved ones. Similarly, it is important to make changes to your estate plan if a beneficiary has died or if your preferences change regarding beneficiary designations (i.e. divorce).
Setting up a trust ensures that funds will reach their intended purpose. For those with a living trust in place, it is necessary that you name the trust as a beneficiary of your estate (or specific assets) or switch ownership of the assets 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.
Keep important documents accessible.
If tragedy strikes while on vacation, special planning can save your loved ones at home from a great deal of difficulty. Your estate plan and personal documents must be easily accessible by a trusted party to ensure that they meet their intended purpose. Further, it is suggested that important paper documents be kept in a weatherproof storage vessel, so they are not subject to physical damage.
Make a list of your financial accounts, assets, and important relevant documents (birth certificate, marriage and/or divorce certificates, property deeds and titles, etc.). If you have online accounts that only you have access to, keep a list of usernames and passwords for these accounts. This will assist you both during and after the estate planning process; Organization will streamline the process of estate distribution and will lessen the burden on your surviving loved ones in the event that the unfortunate occurs.