I often hear about my clients’ exotic trips while they sign their estate planning documents such as their wills, trusts, and related documents. Although we have all heard that it is more common to get into a car accident than a plane crash, a long get-away, an overseas trip, or parents leaving minor children for the first time, often prompts a visit to an estate-planning attorney. Ideally, the documents will not be needed, but nevertheless, my clients feel peace of mind knowing that their plans have been put into writing and properly signed.
Parents traveling without kids may rush to have their first will prepared, wishing to nominate a guardian of their minor children. Parents should also prepare a nomination of guardian of a minor along with their will and trust. Additionally, if a minor child is staying with grandparents or a friend, parents can sign a power of attorney designating their child’s caretaker temporary authority to act on the child’s behalf. The caregiver will then be able to sign summer camp forms, permission slips, or take the child to the doctor in the event of an emergency. This is another document that will provide relief to both the parents and the caretaker, as all parties know that the child can be cared for in the event of an emergency.
I would advise that everyone should have the following basic estate planning documents:
- Last Will and Testament and Revocable Living Trust, if appropriate;
- Durable Power of Attorney;
- Advanced Directive for Health Care; and
- Nomination of a Preneed Guardian.
None of us are invincible, yet many of us put off the very important matters of determining who will receive our assets, who will be in charge of collecting and distributing those assets, and who will make day to day and medical decisions in the event of incapacity. Planning for a vacation, particularly a long trip or a visit to a second home, will prompt a frenzy of packing, cleaning, and organizing to get ready, and this is a good opportunity to prepare and organize legal documents.
I recommend not only having estate planning documents in place before summer travels begin, but also ensuring that current documents are up to date, and in a secure location such as a fireproof safe. My firm will hold original documents upon request at no additional charge, and we provide copies of all documents in an organized book. If you do not have your original documents, confirm their whereabouts and note such location on your copies. You may also choose to provide copies to your nominated agents, such as your attorney-in-fact, health care surrogate, personal representative, and trustee.
Finally, take a moment to organize all legal documents in a safe place before you leave. Along with estate planning documents, a basic binder and plastic sheets are perfect for holding other legal documents that may be applicable, such as:
- Child’s birth certificate
- Marriage license
- Divorce documents, child support, and alimony information
- Vehicle titles
- Deeds to property
- Tax returns and important tax forms
- Either a list of assets with contact information or current financial statements
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement statements
- Digital asset information
- A list of usernames and passwords for online accounts, online bill pay, and social media accounts
- Social Security Cards
This list is not exhaustive, but it is a good start for organizing your important legal and financial documents. Another great resource is the ABA/AARP Checklist for My Family: A Guide to My History, Financial Plans, and Final Wishes, the checklists mentioned in the book, are available at no charge on the ABA’s website found here. Once your documents are signed, organized, and securely stored, you will feel much more at ease while sipping your pina colada on vacation this summer!
Elaine N. McGinnis is an established Estate Planning attorney with nearly fifteen years of experience handling Estate Planning, Probate, Trust Administration and Elder Law cases. Elaine’s clients depend on her to understand their individual needs, discuss goals, and prepare the documents appropriate for each case. Call today to schedule a consultation at (813) 676-9082 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.