Summer is right around the corner, and if you’re like us, you have your sights set on a relaxing, well-earned vacation. In the Weisinger family, we usually take a trip around the middle of August, which happens to coincide with our wedding anniversary and Jack’s Birthday. Typically we try to find something that lets us cool off at the end of the long Texas summer: a relaxing weekend at the beach, an AirBNB with a pool—anything to help beat the summer heat.
What are your plans for the summer? Will you be packing up the car for a trip to the beach, or are you jetting off to a cooler locale? Wherever you’re going, traveling is a good reason to take inventory of your important documents. Before you prep the house for a few days away, take a moment to revisit your estate.
Make sure you’ve got the basics nailed down
If you don’t have a last will and testament, now is the time to put one together. Traveling takes us to new places, and while the risk may be slight, there’s always a chance that something unforeseen could happen. Having a will in place establishes a roadmap for your family in the event you aren’t there to guide them. At a time of uncertainty, a will can provide much-needed structure.
Establish powers of attorney
Okay, so you’ve got your will all set up, now let’s look at a few supplemental documents. Do you have durable and medical powers of attorney in place? These documents allow a person of your choosing to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf. Been a few years since you created yours? It might be a good idea to take a second look. Do the people named know where to find the originals? Are the people you originally named still right for the job, or did they relocate across the country? Even if nothing has changed, it is prudent to re-execute your power of attorney documents at least every five to six years.
Appointment of Guardian for your children
Are your kids going with you on vacation, or is this the year that you and your spouse finally take that trip for just the two of you? If the latter, there are two documents that can be important in this situation. First, you’ll want to get a Designation of Health Care Agent for Children. This form legally appoints the person who will be caring for your children while you are gone, and allows them to make medical decisions for your children in your absence if you cannot be reached. Second, you’ll need an Appointment of Guardian for Children form. This document allows you to designate a permanent guardian for your children if you become incapacitated or pass away.
Tell your loved ones!
Have you talked to your loved ones to let them know where your important documents are located? This is especially important for the agents named in powers of attorney and for the executor of your estate. One of my clients always pulls a copy of their estate plan and places it on their dining room table before they go on a long vacation. Should something happen while they are gone, they want their family to know where to start. This approach may not be right for everyone, but everyone should make it a point to tell his or her agents where to go to find these documents. Additionally, it’s a good idea for the named persons to have a copy so they can start helping immediately—not spending countless hours searching for the necessary documents.
Now that you have these items in place, you can head out on that vacation knowing that all is in order—well, except for that dirty laundry you failed to wash before the trip.