Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Update Your Estate Plan Before Summer Travel Season

Headed for spring or summer travel? Update your estate plan before you go.


With spring right around the corner, many of us are looking forward to a much needed vacation.  In preparing for a vacation there are usually many plans to make, flights to schedule, hotel rooms to book, etc.  Important estate planning questions usually pop up around this time as well, such as “if something happens to me on this trip, will my family be taken care of?” 
 
If you have not considered whether your estate plan is up to date, or have been putting off contacting your attorney to have it updated, your upcoming trip can be a great motivator to finally get it taken care of.  Ensuring your estate plan is up to date will help give you peace of mind on your travels, knowing that if something happened to you, your affairs are in order.   A few common issues to review are included below to help you consider whether your estate plan will perform the way you intend:

Life Changes.  As we all know, the only constant in life is change.  Your estate plan needs to be reviewed and updated to account for these changes.  Changes in your family (such as through a birth, death, marriage, or divorce) or changes in your finances commonly require a review of your estate plan.   Also, consider whether the people you have named to handle the various jobs upon your incapacity or death are still the best choices.  The people you named five or ten years ago to handle a probate, serve as Trustee, or make medical and financial decisions for you may not be the best choice today. 
           
Beneficiaries.   Does your Will or Revocable Trust leave your assets to the individuals you intend?  Are there better ways to leave assets to those individuals, such as leaving assets in trust for their benefit?  It is important to consider where your assets will go upon your death and how they will get there.   Additionally, check to make sure the beneficiary designations on your life insurance policies and retirement accounts are up to date.
 
Illness or Incapacity.  Illness and injury always seem to strike at the least opportune time.  If something happened to you while on vacation which prevented you from handling your medical or financial decisions, having the appropriate documents in place can make all the difference in the world.  Having up to date “Advance Directive for Health Care” and “Durable Power of Attorney” documents is critical to ensure you are taken care of.  If both of these documents are up to date, you will have a trusted person in place to handle your affairs if you could not handle them on your own.
 
Minor Children.  If you have minor children, one of the biggest travel concerns is who would raise them if the unthinkable were to happen and you passed away.  It is a big responsibility to name someone to raise and care for your child.  It is especially important to name someone who is not only willing and able to take on this responsibility right now but can continue to provide a stable environment for years to come.  Make sure your Will is up to date and names a Guardian you are comfortable with.
 
Organization.  With all the technical decisions involved in creating and updating your estate plan, sometimes the practical considerations get overlooked.  Specifically, if someone needed to use your estate planning documents, could they find them?  Before you leave on your trip it is important to organize your estate planning and financial documents so that if something did happen to you, a trusted advisor could easily locate the documents to handle your affairs.  Given that so much of our lives are online these days, you should consider making a list of your online accounts and passwords and leaving it in a secure but accessible location along with your estate planning documents.
 
If you need help updating your estate plan to ensure your affairs are in order, the estate planning attorneys at Gevurtz Menashe can help.  Please contact us to set up an appointment.