Estate Planning Must-Dos Before Traveling

August 7, 2019

Your vacation is coming up and you have tons to do: wrap up work projects, pack, finalize hotel reservations, and so much more. If you have small children, the list just tripled. But one thing many people forget to do is make sure their estate plan is in order. Traveling, especially overseas, means you’ll likely be at greater risk for illness, injury, and even death.

Should any unforeseen medical events happen to you during your trip, your loved ones would be thrown into a chaotic time. By having your affairs in order before you travel, you can help prevent the legal nightmare that other families have gone through. Having an up-to-date estate plan is generally a good idea, but if you will be traveling, it is essential.

Below is a simple estate planning checklist to keep in mind before setting sail:

  1. Last Will and Testament or Revocable Trust

    A Last Will and Testament (“Will”) is used to designate the beneficiaries who should receive your assets upon your death. Wills allow you to appoint someone to become “Personal Representative” of your estate. This person will be responsible for carrying out your last wishes according to what you wrote in the Will.

    Revocable Trusts, also known as Living Trusts, are preferable to Wills especially when a person owns real estate in their name. Essentially, the Trust is created and assets are transferred into the Trust. Upon your death, all assets in the Trust pass to your beneficiaries through the Trust, and not through the arduous court process called “probate.” Upon inheriting any monies or assets through a Trust, the beneficiary enjoys financial protection from future creditors, divorces, and bankruptcy. Trusts are private documents that, unlike Wills, do not become a part of the public record.

    If you don’t have a Will or Revocable Trust in place, now is the time to visit an estate planning attorney and draw one up. If you already have these documents, do they reflect your most recent wishes? If you recently had a major qualifying life event such as a marriage, divorce, death or birth of a family member, you likely need to update your documents. It is imperative that your documents reflect your current wishes by naming the desired beneficiaries, proper trusted individuals to carry out these wishes, and most importantly, that all your assets are properly titled or that your Trust is funded properly with your assets.

  2. Guardianship and Care of Minor Children

    If you have minor children (those under 18 years of age in Florida), it is imperative that you (and your spouse) name a guardian to physically and financially take care of your children in the event that something happens to you. This designation can be done within your Will or in a separate document called a “Declaration Naming Pre-Need Guardian for Minor.” Putting your wishes in writing reduces lawsuits that arise over custody (often involving both sets of grandparents) in cases of your sudden or unexpected death.

  3. Durable Power of Attorney

    Imagine you are traveling overseas, suffer an accident, and must remain in a foreign hospital for an extended period of time. Who will handle your financial matters, such as paying your bills, visiting your bank, etc. at home? This is where a Durable Power of Attorney comes into the scenario. A Durable Power of Attorney is a crucial legal document that functions while you are alive and allows you to select a person (the “agent”) to “step into your shoes” in case of your sudden mental or physical incapacity. The agent will be able to make legal and financial decisions and conduct transactions on your behalf. The Power of Attorney document ends when a person passes away. Note that if you created this document prior to October of 2011, it is time to update it as the laws in Florida have changed.

  4. Health Care Surrogate & Living Will

    Imagine the same scenario where you are stuck in a foreign hospital and want your designated loved ones to make medical decisions about your care. A Health Care Surrogate & Living Will, also known as a Health Care Proxy, allows you to name someone (the “agent”) that will make health care decisions for you in case you can no longer make them yourself. Such decisions include consenting to certain medical procedures, seeking a second opinion, obtaining medical records, or transferring you to a different medical facility.

  5. Review How Assets are Titled and Beneficiary Designations

    In addition to having an iron-clad estate plan, make sure you review all the beneficiary designations on your accounts and policies. This includes your bank accounts, retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, life insurance policy, etc. Additionally, check that the title on your home, other real estate properties, cars and watercraft vehicles are correct as well.

Once you have confirmed that all your legal documents are in order, place them together in one file. Store this file in a safe place (at home or your office) in a Ziplock bag in case of flooding. Inform your loved ones as to the location of this file so they have access to your information in an emergency. If you need to update your estate plan or create one from scratch, our savvy estate planning attorneys cater to your specific family situation. We will provide you peace of mind on your next family adventure. Contact OC Estate and Elder Law at (954) 251-0332 or to get started with your free consultation. Our attorneys are fluent in English, Spanish and Russian.