Estate Planning Before Leaving for Vacation
Ahh, vacations. We all love taking vacations. You pack your bags, you plan your itinerary, you book your pet’s boarding. You are ready to go. But wait! Have you completed your necessary estate planning before leaving for vacation? Did you even know there was such a thing as estate planning before vacation?
Don’t worry, I’m here to let you know why you need to do some estate planning before leaving for a vacation. And, more importantly, what estate planning you need to have in place.
Why You Need Estate Planning
So, I am sure you are scratching your head wondering what estate planning has to do with vacation planning. Well, life happens. When you are on vacation, you could be involved in an accident. You could become incapacitated or worse, you could die while on vacation. Or, you could become stranded and in need of some money with no access to an ATM or internet.
Gasp! Bet you hadn’t thought of any of these scenarios. No, you were probably focused on the fun parts of vacation – as you should be doing. After all, vacations are supposed to be fun. No one wants to think that something bad might happen while on vacation. But, sometimes bad things happen and we need to be prepared.
Preparation is Key
Preparation for bad things happening is where estate planning comes in handy. By having your estate planning in place, you and your loved ones will have peace of mind if a casualty happens.
You need to make sure you are protected if you become unable to make financial or medical decisions for yourself. And don’t forget your children – you want to make sure you have guardians, temporary and permanent in place, before jetting off to those sandy beaches. Making these critical choices now, before you embark on your vacation, will give you and your loved ones security and protection in the event something happens to you.
So, before you pack those bags and leave for vacation, make an appointment with your estate planning attorney to make sure your estate plan is completed. Already have an estate plan in place? Make sure you review your documents to verify your decisions are current.
Ok, Ok. I have convinced you of why estate planning is an essential part of estate planning. So, what estate planning do I really need, I am sure you are wondering. Sit back and read on for more information.
How many of you have minor children? You need to assign guardianship of your minor children to a person of your choosing. Now, I know that no parent wants to think about dying or becoming incapacitated. But, the reality is, none of us knows the future. But, we can plan for the unexpected.
Why appoint a guardian? If you do not, the court will appoint one for your children. If that happens, your children could end up living with strangers. Or, the court could appoint someone you do not like to serve as a guardian. Worse case scenario, your children could spend part, if not all, of their remaining childhood years in and out of foster homes.
You can, and should, establish two types of guardianships to make sure your children are protected. The first guardian appointment is made through your will. In your will, you designate a person or persons of your choosing to serve as guardians if something happens to you and your partner.
The second type of guardianships is a designation of stand-by guardian. With this document, you can appoint a person to serve as a temporary guardian under select situations. For instance, the temporary guardianship could go into effect if:
- You become incapacitated;
- You become sick;
- At your death before your will is probated; and
- Any time you designate.
Create or Update Your Will
Make sure your loved ones receive their due inheritance. Without a will in place, the state determines who gets your property when you die.
Learn from Jack and Jill. Jack and Jill go on vacation without completing their wills. “We’ll finish our wills when we return.” So off they went.
Two days after arriving at their hotel, Jack suddenly dies of a heart attack. Jack left behind his parents and his wife, Jill.
Now, Jill is at the mercy of the probate court and her state’s intestacy law. Under her state’s laws, Jill and Jack’s parents will equally share in the ownership of Jack’s home. You see, Jack and Jill’s marital home is titled in Jack’s name only. Oh, did I mention Jack’s parents strongly dislike Jill? Poor Jill.
Don’t be a Jack. Get your will completed BEFORE leaving on vacation.
Complete Your Powers of Attorney
Before leaving for vacation, anyone over the age of 18 needs to execute powers of attorney documents. These documents enable a person to make financial and medical decisions on behalf of another. There are two types of power of attorney documents:
- a Durable Power of Attorney; and
- a Heath Care Power of Attorney.
Durable Power of Attorney
What is a durable power of attorney and why do I need one? Great questions. A Durable Power of Attorney enables you to appoint someone, called an agent or attorney in fact, to make financial decisions for you if you become ill or incapacitated. Your agent can pay bills, access your bank accounts and transfer real estate on your behalf. With the execution of a Durable Power of Attorney, your agent can handle all of your financial affairs while you are unable to do so. If you become ill or injured on your vacation, your Durable Power of Attorney would enable your agent to make financial decisions on your behalf. Without a Durable Power of Attorney in place, your loved ones may be unable to help you without court intervention.
Health Care Power of Attorney
A Health Care Power of Attorney enables another person to legally make medical decisions on your behalf. If you do not designate someone to make these decisions for you, medical personnel are not required to give you access to medical records or even speak to you about someone’s condition.
If your child is over 18, your child is considered to be an adult. So, if your adult child has not executed a health care power of attorney, then you, as the parent, may be excluded from your child’s medical care decisions.
So why do you need these documents executed before leaving for vacation? Let’s look at what happened to Mike and Molly.
Mike and Molly left on their honeymoon right after their wedding. Before leaving, Mike and Molly had not opened any bank account in both their names. Mike and Molly also had an appointment to meet with their estate planning attorney when they returned. So, no estate planning documents in place.
Mike and Molly go hiking while on their honeymoon. On their hike, Mike accidentally falls off a cliff, incurring a brain injury. Mike is in a medically induced coma. Molly, already upset, becomes even more upset when the doctors refuse to talk to her about Mike’s condition. Worse, Molly can’t access Mike’s bank account to pay for his medical bills.
Do not be like Mike and Molly. Get your powers of attorney documents completed before leaving on vacation.
So complete your estate planning before leaving on vacation. If you need help with your estate planning needs, please contact us! We would love to help you.