Before you take off for your summer vacation, there are a few important things you need to do in addition to packing and making sure reservations are in order. Among those on your checklist should be reviewing or completing your estate plan.
Estate Planning for Summer Travel
The last thing you want to think about is an accident or a medical emergency happening during your summer getaway. Sadly, these things can occur.
Whether you are flying, driving, or boating this summer, you need an estate plan – a set of legal documents that allow you to protect your family and your assets while ensuring your wishes are carried out if the unthinkable happens.
Should an emergency occur and critical decisions need to be made, documents spelling out your choices for medical treatment, asset distribution, or childcare need to be at the ready before you head off.
Summer Vacation Dangers
Surprisingly, summer is the most accident-prone time of the year, particularly on the roads.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), July and August have the most vehicle crashes with related injuries and deaths than any other months of the year in this country. The NHTSA reports there were 9,050 fatal crashes in 2018 in those two months.
The Documents You Need
A Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney, Will, and Pet Power of Attorney are the essential estate planning documents you should have in place. Here’s a breakdown of each:
1. Health Care Proxy – In this document, you name someone you trust to carry out your health care and medical treatment wishes in the event you cannot speak for yourself. You can also list the treatments and procedures you want and don’t want (Living Will). The proxy is your voice if you are incapacitated. If you don’t have a Health Care Proxy and you are impaired, the court would appoint a guardian to make decisions on your behalf.
2. Power of Attorney – You designate a person to manage your financial affairs if you are unable to make your own decisions. The Power of Attorney can pay your bills, manage your business, and sign legal documents. It’s your discretion to set limited or broad powers to your designee.
3. Last Will and Testament – This is the perfect time to review, update, or create your Will. Choose what assets you want bequeathed to beneficiaries upon your passing. If you are a single parent and something should happen to you, or if something should happen to both you and your spouse, you need to name a guardian who would care for your minor children. If you do not have a Will, the state’s intestacy law kicks in and the court chooses who gets what. In the case of minor children, the court would appoint a guardian – it could be someone you may not want to care for your children.
4. Pet Power of Attorney – Are you leaving your pet in the care of someone while you’re traveling? Like a Power of Attorney, the Pet Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a caretaker who has authority to make decisions for your pet if you cannot. You provide instructions as to how your pet should be cared for including medical treatments you would want and not want.
Accessing Your Documents
Just imagine – a medical crisis occurs while you’re out-of-state or in another country and you need immediate access to your loved one’s Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy. If these documents are in a file cabinet or a bank safe deposit box back home, that’s going to be a major problem.
Storing your documents in an online vault, like the Gentreo Digital Vault, allows 24/7 access to your documents no matter where you are. You and those you have authorized can access the vault from your mobile device or computer and get the documents you need right away.
Don't Leave Home Without an Estate Plan in Place
Having estate planning documents in place and accessible should be part of your summer vacation plans. It’s all about being prepared and having peace of mind for you and your family in the time of a crisis knowing your estate planning documents are ready and accessible when you need them.