The holiday season is fast approaching—when travel is busiest and advance planning is necessary to nab the best airfare or book that New Year’s beach cottage before someone else does.
One thing that might not make it to a typical traveler's to-do list is estate planning. Americans spend more time planning their vacation each year than planning their estate, and it is estimated that 42 million people will travel this Thanksgiving holiday. Knowing what would happen to your family if something happened to you is critical for travel with peace of mind.
Before heading to the family holiday getaway, check off a few estate planning and kids protection planning items first:
Establish guardianship for minor children—and not in your will. If you have minor children, there is never an excuse for a parent to neglect this important step: choosing guardians for your kids. Give your children's caretaker short-term guardianship to make sure they can make decisions for your kids in case of an emergency, and lay out the plan for long-term guardianship if you aren't able to raise your children. These documents deserve their own stand-alone plan, not to be buried in your will.
Complete an estate plan if you don't have one. If you've been putting it off, now is the time to complete your estate plan to make sure that your children don't have full control over your assets at 18 years old—that would be like winning the lottery.
Update an existing estate plan. Has something changed in your life since you last updated your estate plan? A birth, a death, a marriage, a divorce? Each of these triggers your need to update your estate plan—before you go out of town.
Review beneficiaries. Beneficiaries of your retirement accounts, life insurance and other assets should be reviewed frequently to ensure the proper beneficiaries are named. If you have minor children, you will need to set up a trust and name the trust as beneficiary so your assets can pass without court intervention.
Review/update incapacity documents. Two very important health care documents—a durable power of attorney for health care and a HIPPA Authorization—will determine who can make medical decisions for you and who has access to your medical records in case of incapacity.
Review/update insurance. Does your life insurance coverage still meet your family's needs? If not, it is time to update your insurance policy before you hit the road.
Organize your legacy drawer. Be sure you have an organized file of all your account statements and your full estate plan before you go. Also include a full list of usernames and passwords to your online accounts. And be sure to tell your family where they can locate the file if and when it becomes necessary.
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Note from the author: As a Personal Family Lawyer, I can further advise you on all your options and make things as easy as possible for your family during a Family Wealth Planning Session. If you would like to have a talk about estate planning for your family, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, and this month I've made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today at (720) 266-8190 and mention this article.