No one wants to worry while on vacation, particularly about matters regarding estate planning. But by following a few suggestions, you can embark on your well-deserved rest worry-free, confident that every detail regarding your family’s security is attended to. Here are four estate planning items to wipe from your to-do list before stepping in the car or on a airplane.
Whether you’re leaving the continent or driving to the next town for a getaway, make sure that all incapacity documents are up to date and properly executed. Such documents might include:
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act shields your personal health information from prying eyes.It protects your privacy and places your medical information under your control. Filling out a HIPAA release ensures that should you become injured, your loved ones are able to obtain information relating to your condition. The release also enables that those you appoint are able to speak with your insurance carrier in your stead.
In the United States, a medical or health care proxy is a legal document with which a person designates an agent to execute decisions regarding health care on your behalf. The medical proxy usually defines which conditions (such as a coma) put the document in effect and how long the document is valid. It must be signed by two adult witnesses affirming that all parties have consented and are of sound mind. Medical proxies can address issues regarding transfusions, feeding tubes, dialysis, or organ transplants. Once your proxy is signed, a copy should be given to your health care provider as well as your proxy and close family members.
This document permits others to make decisions when you are not present. These may or may not relate to your health. They may allow a designated person to make financial decisions, sign legal documents, or work with insurance companies. Designating power of attorney may be helpful if you find yourself stranded and in need of money. It can also enable you to take rapid action on business or family matters if you are unable to sign documents in person. A power of attorney also requires the signature of at least one witness, and may have to be notarized.
A living will is a different document from a medical proxy. While a medical proxy appoints another person to render health care decisions on your behalf, a valid living will communicates your wishes concerning end-of-life decisions. It specifically outlines which medical treatments you would like performed (or not performed) in the event you are incapacitated.
A last will legally specifies the ways in which you would like your assets to be distributed after your death. In the event you have minor children, it designates their guardians. It names an executor, or person who carries out these actions.
If a worst-case scenario takes place while you are on vacation, it is important that your family has the ability to easily find both copies of and original documents vital to your estate plans. Gather copies of all important documents in a folder, fireproof safe, drawer, or safe deposit box, and let a friend or family member know their location. Make digital copies available as well. If you are travelling with a spouse or significant other, strongly consider carrying copies of relevant documents for each of you, both digital as well as hard copy.
In the event you are leaving minor children in the care of another, let the provider know where the originals, copies and digital backups are as well. Ensure they have the contact information of your legal representation, bank, insurance company, primary care provider, and investment proxies. In addition to these documents, also distribute to a few trusted individuals such information as your itinerary, flight numbers, and phone numbers of hotels where you will be staying.
If you have a will, insurance policies, medical incapacity documents or retirement accounts, ensure the information therein is up to date. Does your will still reflect that you have minor children even if they are of legal age? Has a divorce changed the complexion of your estate or your decisions about legal guardianship? Are your home addresses and legal contact information up to date? Do you still think the same way about resuscitation or feeding tubes as you did when you first signed your living will? Are life insurance policies enough to cover new assets or purchases, such as a vacation home or just-formed business? Do you have new grandchildren since your will was originally drawn who you’d like to consider? Is your understanding of estate taxes current and attended to in your will? What about charities you have recently decided to support? Is your choice for your medical proxy and executor still the same person, with the same contact information? Ensuring this information is current will protect you as well as your loved ones.
Before you leave, research differences in laws, customs, and forms of communication between your primary state or nation of residence and the place you will be going. What is valid and legal in one state might not be in another. Especially if you will be moving state to state or gone for an extended period, be sure to obtain responsible advice about the areas to which you will be travelling.
This is especially important if you will be travelling abroad, or will be at sea for an extended period. Find out which nations have similar understandings of your estate planning documents, and which do not. Smoothing over potential differences ahead of time will drastically reduce stress and confusion for your significant other or family. By taking control of your own information and goals, you will provide an everlasting gift for those you love when they need it most.
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