Gabriel Katzner - March 21, 2023 - Estate Planning
family on vacation with estate affairs in order

Before heading off to your next great adventure, take a few minutes to review this quick checklist and identify an important estate planning issue you may need to address.

Do you have a basic estate plan?

Have you met with your estate attorney to create an estate plan: a set of instructions that are memorialized in a legal document and explain to your trusted decision-makers and loved ones what your wishes are? This may include instruction about your care and the care of your dependents. It may also explain how you want your money and property to be distributed upon your death.

Have you written a Last Will and Testament?

A Last Will and Testament is a foundational document in your estate plan. Some of its many functions include:

  1. Naming an executor to wind up your affairs. Your executor may protect your money and property, create a list of your possessions, pay your outstanding bills and taxes, and then distribute the rest of your estate to your beneficiaries.
  2. Name a guardian for your minor children.
  3. Explain to your trusted decision-makers how to carry out your last wishes.

A Last Will and Testament only go into effect upon your death, so your loved ones will still need to go through the probate process unless you set up a revocable living trust to keep them from having to go through this expensive, time-consuming, and public process.

Do you have a revocable living trust?

A revocable living trust is an entity that owns your accounts and property and can form the foundation of your estate plan.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You retitle your accounts and property in the name of your trust instead of your name alone. Another alternative is to name your trust as your beneficiary upon your death.
  2. Choose a trusted decision-maker to oversee your trust. Your trustee will follow the instructions in your trust instrument to operate your trust.
  3. You can name yourself the trustee and set up a co-trustee and successor trustee(s) for when you can no longer operate your trust. Planning ahead can ensure a seamless transition without involving the courts.
  4. You can also name yourself as a beneficiary of your trust.
  5. If everything you own is in the name of the trust, you will own nothing when you die. Therefore, there is no reason for your loved ones to go through the probate process.
  6. Your trust goes into effect as soon as you sign your trust documents.

Have you reviewed your estate planning documents?

Ensure that all your estate planning documents reflect your current wishes. Have there been any deaths, marriages, births, or divorces that would affect how you plan to distribute your estate? Have you reviewed all your accounts and the titles on all your property to ensure that your trust is named as a beneficiary?

While you are away, do you have someone to manage your financial affairs?

Have you named a trusted decision-maker to manage your financial affairs while you are on vacation? If you plan to leave the country, it may be more difficult to take care of any financial matters that may come up.

A durable financial power of attorney enables you to name a trusted decision-maker to handle financial matters on your behalf. Talk with your estate attorney to learn more about your options. In some states, you can choose when your financial power of attorney goes into effect. For example, you may want it to take effect now or maybe only when you are on vacation.

You can also tailor your financial power of attorney to state how much authority you want to give them and in which situations they have decision-making authority.

You can limit your financial decision-makers authority to specific situations or tasks. For example, you may ask them to carry out a specific transaction on your behalf or sign a document for you.

Do you have someone to manage your health while you are away, or if you are no longer able to?

Just as you choose a financial power of attorney to manage your financial affairs, you can choose a trusted decision-maker to make medical decisions for you.

A medical power of attorney is someone who makes medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot.

A living will or advance directive document states your end-of-life wishes.

A HIPAA authorization names the individuals you give the right to hear your private healthcare information.

If you are traveling out of the country for an extended period, you may also want to name a medical power of attorney following that country’s laws.

Do you have the right insurance and the right amount of insurance?

Your medical insurance may not cover you overseas. Check to ensure you have coverage, and if not, see if you can purchase a short-term policy that will provide coverage.

Do you have travel insurance for your trip? International travel can involve some unknowns. Travel insurance can help protect you from some of these possibilities that could derail your plans and be costly.

Have you made plans for your minor children?

Are your minor children traveling with you or staying behind?

If they are traveling with you:

  1. Do they have a passport? Passports for minors need to be renewed more frequently than for adults.
  2. Do you have proof that you are their parent? Because of concerns about international kidnapping and human trafficking, customs officers may ask for documents proving you are the parent of minor children.

If they are staying home:

  1. Do you have a named guardian and have given them the authority to care for your children?
  2. Does your state allow you to designate a trusted decision-maker to make medical and other decisions for your children while you are away?
  3. Does your Last Will and Testament name a guardian for your children? In some states, you can name a guardian using a durable power of attorney or nomination of guardian if you do not have a Last Will and Testament. In these cases, the court will still be involved, but you will be able to express your wishes.

International travel can be stressful. Reviewing your estate plan before you leave can reduce this stress.

If you need help with reviewing your estate plan, schedule a call with us at 855.631.3457 to learn more about how to protect those most important to you.


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