School is out for the summer and many families are packing for a trip to the beach or heading to the airport for a long-awaited vacation. This extra time with our families reminds us of what is really important in life and it should also prompt us to take measures to provide for them under difficult circumstances.
Travel may expose you to more risks and a sudden illness or accident away from home can leave your affairs a tangled mess for your family to sort out. Resolve to put your affairs in order before you go on vacation. Here is a quick list of the things you should do before you leave home.
Update your will. It is amazing how many people do not have a will. Others have wills that were written years ago and this is a good time to review whether a new business, additional wealth or other changed circumstances, including changes in the law, have left you with a will that is out of date. Make sure family members know where to find your will in case something happens. (We recommend keeping the will in a fireproof safe.)
Review your beneficiary designations. While a will or revocable trust are certainly your most important documents in estate planning, you should also be sure you have properly designated beneficiaries in life insurance policies, annuities and retirement accounts. It is important to confirm this information in writing. And do not forget to ensure your beneficiary designation match our recommendations when we helped you complete your estate plan. All of these beneficiaries trump those named in a will, so be sure to revisit them after a marriage, divorce, births of children or death of beneficiaries.
Bring your advanced health care directive along with you. An illness or accident could leave you incapacitated on a trip, and this can be particularly problematic in a foreign country or even in another state. Unmarried couples, as well as same-sex couples, can run into situations where they cannot visit their partner in a hospital or make health care decisions for them. An advanced health care directive or health care durable power of attorney gives your designated agent the authority to make medical decisions for you and avoids potentially devastating legal complications. Always take it with you when traveling for any purpose. You can always contact us in a bind if you need us to send you an electronic copy of your document via email.
Make a checklist. Write down everything your family will need to know if you are incapacitated or die, including information on who to contact, your insurance, charge cards, bank accounts, stocks, pensions, real estate, vehicles, account passwords and funeral arrangements. Would you like a head start? Ask us for a copy of a checklist we have been sharing with our clients for many years.
The attorneys at MendenFreiman can help you work through these preparations in a short amount of time, and you will leave home with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have done the right things for your family.