Estate Planning Before Vacation Planning

Summer is almost here, and maybe you are planning family vacations, road trips, amusement park adventures, or even skydiving! While none of us ever want to contemplate tragedy or hardship, before you create your summer vacation plans, be sure to put in place an estate plan that will protect you and your family in the event the unthinkable happens.

Taking a few small steps now can ensure your wishes are carried out if you can no longer articulate them. Critical choices such as healthcare or medical decisions, guardianship of your minor children and distribution of your assets – all of these important pieces can be put in place before you travel and adventure out, giving you and your loved ones peace of mind, knowing you are protected.

Due Diligence & Beneficiary Designations

There are some instances such as life insurance, for example, where you may have assigned a beneficiary when you signed up for your account. However, your situation may have changed and you may have put off updating your accounts. In the case of your retirement accounts such as your 401(k) or IRA, estate planning can help your beneficiary receive an allotted amount every month, instead of a large lump sum, which may be helpful if the beneficiary is young or inexperienced with financial decisions. Make sure you do your due diligence and double-check your beneficiaries.

Create a Will, or Better Yet a Trust

How many of us believe we don’t need a Will or we have time to plan for one later? The reality is even if you are young, even if you think you don’t have enough assets that require a Will – you need one. Without a Will in place, or better yet a living trust, you leave your heirs and family open to the struggle and potential loss of their inheritance in probate court.

More important than money, at the most basic your Will should designate guardianship for your minor children and assign someone to make your medical decisions in the event you are unable to – see more below on these two critical decisions. An estate planning attorney can help you create the correct documents as all Wills, and Trusts, are not created equal.

Assign Guardianship

The reality of guardianship is a heavy weight that many of us don’t want to contemplate. Leaving our children is the ultimate unthinkable tragedy. However, our children deserve the forethought and planning of designating a guardian or guardians in the event they need one.

Guardianship creates a heavy responsibility whether it’s guardianship of the person, of the finances, or of both. The guardian of your minors will have to file an accounting with the court every two years, or as the court may otherwise order, and give a final accounting when the child turns eighteen. If you don’t find a suitable guardian to agree to take on this role before something happens to you, the court may not be able to find a good, willing guardian at all. And your children will end up in foster homes with strangers as their guardians. You can prevent this by designating a proper guardian or guardians in advance.

A Living Will or Advanced Directive

In the event you are incapacitated, it is important you know what type of medical treatment you would like and that you specify your choices clearly in either a Living Will or advanced healthcare directive (AHD). Why do you need one? Without one, and without granting durable power of attorney to carry out your wishes, the court may assign someone to make those critical decisions for you, decisions you may never have made for yourself. Additionally, communicating your wishes with a clear directive helps alleviate the emotional hardship and guilt for your family if this situation arises.

Granting Durable Power of Attorney

When you grant “durable power of attorney” to another person—any other person—you are designating that person as your agent, to act on your behalf. “Durable” means “continuing even when you are incapacitated.” Indeed, these documents are generally written so that these powers are only granted while you are incapacitated and unable to act on your own. Recently we covered all you need to know about granting power of attorney powers for both your property and healthcare decisions.

We want you to enjoy your summer and your travels without looking over your shoulder wondering if something might happen. The reality is your estate, your family, and your legacy deserve the forethought and planning to ensure their safety and protection should you leave them behind.

At CunninghamLegal, we help you tackle all of these difficult decisions so you can enjoy your vacation knowing your wishes and family are taken care of. For a consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, attend one of our FREE seminars.

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