Before any trip, most of us
create a “to-do list” of things we have put off and want to take care of before
we leave. Here is a checklist of estate planning things to do before you take
your next trip. Taking care of these will help you travel with peace of mind,
knowing that if you don’t return due to serious illness or death, you have made
things much easier for those you love.
1. Have your estate planning done. If you have been
procrastinating about your estate planning, use your next trip as your deadline
to finally get this done. Be sure to allow adequate time to get your estate
plan completed in advance of your trip.
2. Review and update your existing estate plan. Revisions should be made any time there are changes in family (birth,
death, marriage, divorce, remarriage), finances, tax laws, or if a trustee or
executor can no longer serve. Again, be sure to allow enough time to have the
3. Review titles and beneficiary designations. If you have a living
trust and did not finish changing titles and/or beneficiary designations, now
is the time to do so. If a beneficiary has died or if you are divorced, change
these immediately. If a beneficiary is incapacitated or a
minor, set up a trust for this person and name the trust as beneficiary to
prevent the court from taking control of the proceeds.
4. Review your plan for minor children. If you haven’t
named a guardian who is able and willing to serve and something happens to you,
the court will decide who will raise your kids without your input. If you have
named a guardian, consider if this person is still the best choice. Name a
back-up in case your first choice cannot serve. Select someone responsible to
manage the inheritance.
5. Secure or review incapacity documents. Everyone over
the age of 18 needs to have these: 1) Durable Power of Attorney for Heath Care, which gives another
person legal authority to make health care decisions (including life and death
decisions) for you if you are unable to make them for yourself; and 2) HIPPA Authorizations, which give written
consent for doctors to discuss your medical situation with others, including
6. Review your insurance. Check the amount of
your life insurance coverage and see if it still meets your family’s needs.
Consider getting long-term care insurance to help pay for the costs of
long-term care (and preserve your assets for your family) in the event you
and/or your spouse should need it due to illness or injury.
7. Organize your accounts and documents. It used to be that we
could just point to a file cabinet and say everything was “in there.” But now
so much is done online that there may not even be a paper trail. Make a list of
ALL of your accounts, where they are located, and the user names and passwords,
then review and update it before each trip. Print a hard copy in case your
computer is stolen or crashes and let someone you trust know where to find it.
Clean up your computer desktop and put your financial and other important files
where they can be easily found. Make a back-up copy in case your computer is
stolen or crashes, and let someone know where to find it. Be sure to include on
your master list any passwords that might be needed to access your computer and
8. Talk to your children about your plan. You don’t have
to show them financial statements, but you can discuss in general terms what
you are planning and why, especially when any changes are made. The more they
understand your plan, the more likely they are to accept it—and that will help
to avoid discord after you are gone.
If you have more questions, contact our Menlo Park Living Trust Lawyers today.