You packed your suitcase. You stopped the mail and watered the plants. You're ready to hit the road for vacation, right? Not so fast. There's something you've forgotten—and no, you didn't leave the stove on.
It's likely you've completely forgotten to update (or create!) your estate plan. Doing so before you travel can help you feel like you've earned the right to relax during your trip and can certainly help in case of emergency.
Look at your last will
If you already have a will, take a glance at it and make sure it's current—new children or grandchildren may have joined the family, or your marital status may have changed. Get in touch with your attorney if you need to update it.
Haven't started one? Now is a good time to get it done.
- Talk with an attorney.
- Decide who you want to leave your assets to and in what amounts.
- Consider any special bequests of personal items like jewelry or collectibles.
- Choose who you want to be responsible for managing your estate.
- To make it valid, be sure your will is signed and witnessed according to state law.
Find the right guardian
This is a major part of your will if you have minor children. Be sure your will specifies a guardian to care for them should something happen to you. While you can set up a trust to protect your children financially, a will is the most common document used to name a physical guardian.
If you have already named a guardian, be sure to review your choice. Is this still the person you want to care for your children?
Trust in your living trust
If you've set up a living trust, make sure that you've completed the process. After you've signed the documents, you also must transfer ownership of assets into the name of the trust. The trust is not completely effective until you complete this step. Your attorney can help you transfer the assets, or give you guidance on how to do it yourself.
Even if you've completed your trust and transferred your assets into it, you should review it to make sure it's up to date. Do you need to make changes to the who is in change of managing the trust if something happens to you? Are the beneficiaries of your trust still accurate? Do you need to change the age(s) at which your beneficiaries will receive their share?
If you do not have a living trust, this may be the time to get one. It allows you to pass assets to beneficiaries outside of a will and outside of probate, while allowing you to continue to use and access the assets during your lifetime.
Establish advance directives
An advance directive—such as a living will or health care power of attorney—sets out your wishes for medical treatment should you be unable to make those decisions yourself, and names someone to make decisions on your behalf.
If you have an advance directive, make sure it's up to date, and that the person you've chosen is available and willing. If you don't have one, consult with an attorney.
Set up a power of attorney
Many people set up a durable power of attorney—a document that authorizes someone else to handle business and financial affairs for you. This is useful not only should you become ill, but also if you are out of town and can't handle an important matter that arises.
Check to make sure your power of attorney is signed and ready to go. If you don't have one in place, now is a good time to get one.
Share your information
Before you head for the hills, make sure that all of the documents that make up your estate plan are stored safely and where family members can access them. A home safe or fireproof file cabinet are good options. You should also give copies of these documents to the people you've authorized to act on your behalf.
Whenever you travel, it's a good idea to make copies of your passport and to make a list of your current credit cards—so if your wallet is stolen, you'll know who to contact. Start a file with this information and include info about your investments and assets as well, so family members can easily locate everything should they need to.
Consider an online password storage manager like LastPass to store your passwords for your online accounts. Give access to close family members so they can get into your accounts if needed.
And, finally, don't forget to share your itinerary before you lock the door behind you!
LegalZoom can help you create an estate planning bundle that includes all the estate planning documents you need to protect your family and your assets. The estate planning bundle includes a last will or living trust, power of attorney, living will, and one year of attorney advice—all for one low price.