Summer vacation is a busy time for the family — the prospect of sun, sea, and sand is enough to excite anyone. In between booking hotels and packing luggage, it is vital to set aside time to plan for challenging scenarios.
Wills and estate planning might be the last topic on your mind, but they provide security for yourself and your loved ones. As such, estate planning before travel is crucial, regardless of age.
Some key considerations include who should take responsibility for your children or make medical decisions in the worst-case scenario. Once you have completed the steps outlined below, you will have the peace of mind to enjoy your vacation.
1. Update your Will and Beneficiaries
Make a will if you do not have one already. A will dictates who will inherit your assets. If you do not have a will, your assets may become unnecessarily subject to high estate taxes or given away to unwanted individuals by a court of law.
Note that life insurance and retirement savings are not passed down through a will — you need to complete forms to appoint beneficiaries who will receive these payments. It is wise to designate a primary and secondary beneficiary or beneficiaries.
Update your will and beneficiaries after major life events like marriage, divorce, and children’s birth.
2. Appoint Power of Attorney
Appointing power of attorney gives a loved one the ability to make financial and legal decisions for you, should you become unable to do so yourself. Financial power of attorney is described as ‘durable’ because the appointee can make decisions whether you are incapacitated or not.
You should also appoint medical power of attorney. This is a separate role that gives a loved one the ability to make medical decisions for you.
3. Assign Guardianship of Minors
It isn’t easy to think about leaving your children behind, but you should prepare for the worst-case scenario.
Minors (children under 18) need someone to raise them and make financial decisions for them until they come of age. If you do not assign a legal guardian and the court cannot find someone suitable, your child may end up in foster care.
Assign a primary and secondary guardian in case your first choice cannot fulfill their duties. Once someone becomes a guardian, they must file petitions and accounting documents to the court every few years to show how they are handling transactions for your child.
4. Make a Living Will
A living will outlines what kind of medical treatment you want to receive, should you become incapacitated and unable to communicate. If you have neither a living will nor medical power of attorney, the court can choose someone to make these crucial decisions.
A living will prevents you from suffering unnecessarily should you wish not to, and ensures your loved ones will not have to make difficult palliative care decisions for you.
5. Secure Digital Assets
If you have social media accounts or cryptocurrency, you should arrange for how they are dealt with in the worst-case scenario.
Write down the location and password of your accounts and place the information somewhere secure but accessible. Tell a loved one what to do with the accounts should you pass away.
Hiring an estate planning attorney is crucial to ensuring the steps mentioned above are completed properly and efficiently.
An attorney will oversee official processes like will drafting and assigning guardians. They will clearly explain your options so you can make informed decisions, and assist you in completing legal documentation.
For more information and assistance on estate planning, please contact The Law Offices of Lawrence Israeloff, PLLC at (516) 537-4440.