Before You Travel This Summer Protect Your Loved Ones By Drafting An Estate Plan
Now that we’ve all enjoyed celebrating Memorial Day, school is almost over and the summer travel season has officially begun, many of us start thinking about our estate plan (or our lack of one) every time we board an airplane or get behind the wheel for a long summer car trip. When we travel, it’s not uncommon to be anxious about whether or not we’ve adequately protected our loved ones, such as whether we’ve appointed a guardian for our children.
Before I travel, I know I always create a “to-do list” of everything I want to take care of before I leave. Here’s a short list of estate planning things I recommend doing before you leave on your next trip. Completing your estate planning to-do list will give you much needed peace of mind, knowing that even if something happens while you’re away, you’ve provided for your family and your wishes will be followed.
- Create Your Estate Plan: Many of us procrastinate for months if not years, about completing an estate plan. Use your next trip as the deadline for finally completing your plan. Speak with an attorney about what documents you need. If money is an issue, have the attorney draft what you can afford now (your will, powers of attorney, an advance health care directive) and then focus on creating a revocable living trust later. Be sure to contact the attorney well in advance of your travels so that you have plenty of time to complete your estate plan before you leave.
- Review Your Estate Plan: Most attorneys recommend reviewing your estate plan every three to five years. Revisions to your estate plan should be made any time your family situation changes due to a birth, death, divorce or remarriage. Your estate plan may also need an update if your financial situation has changed, or a trustee or executor can no longer serve. A substantial increase in your net worth, a change in the type of assets you own, or a decision to purchase life insurance may also require changes to your estate plan.
- Review Your Beneficiary Designations: After divorce, many people forget to update their beneficiary designations, leaving their prior spouse as the beneficiary of their financial accounts. Beneficiary designations preempt whatever is written in a will, so even if you decide to leave your assets to your children, your ex-spouse will inherit any assets where he or she is listed as a beneficiary. As part of the estate-planning process, make sure to update your beneficiary designations on such assets as your transfer-on-death brokerage and annuity accounts, retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401ks, life insurance policies and other financial pay-on-death accounts.
- Appoint a Guardian for Your Minor Children: If something happens to you, and you have failed to name a guardian who is willing to care for your children, a court will decide who will raise your children without your guidance. Make sure to include a Guardianship Statement in your estate plan, and then revisit your guardian designation periodically. The guardian you named while your children were young may not be the best fit as your children get older.
- Review and Update Your Incapacity Documents: Everyone in your family over the age of eighteen should have a Durable Power of Attorney for Asset Management, which gives your agent the legal authority to make financial decisions for you if you become unable to, as well as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care with an Advance Health Care Directive, which gives your agents the legal authority to make health care decisions for you if you cannot, including making end-of-life decisions.
- Organize Your Accounts and Passwords: Inventory your online accounts, including all email, investment, and social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Make sure to include the username and password to each account in your inventory, as well as the username and password to your digital devices like your computer, tablet and smartphone. Store this inventory in a secure place like a safety deposit box or safe, or give the list to your attorney for safekeeping. Be sure to give access to your digital inventory to your executor. Either give them a copy, or let them know how to locate the inventory, in the event you become incapacitated or pass away. Remember to update your inventory every six months. You don’t want to miss including a new bank account, or technological device, so make sure your inventory is current.
- Talk with Your Loved Ones About Your Plan: You don’t have to share your financial information with your family, but talking in general about your thoughts and wishes will help prevent hard feelings. The more your loved ones understand your planning choices, the easier it will be for them to accept them.
Contact Skye Ferrera today at [email protected] and schedule your free estate-planning consultation.
This blog is for educational purposes only, and not to provide specific legal advice. You understand that there is no attorney client relationship established between you and the blog site publisher by using this blog. If you are seeking legal advice about your specific situation, please contact a licensed attorney.