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Estate Planning: What to Know Before Vacation

June 21, 2024


Author: Shea Law


With the summer months officially upon us, many families and individuals across the country are looking forward to that beloved American tradition: the summer vacation. But whether you’re headed to the beach or the lake for the weekend or you have grander ambitions and have a longer vacation planned, there’s an important item to add to your pre-vacation to-do list that far too many of us never even think about: estate planning.


Making sure that key estate planning documents are in place and updated before you head off on that vacation should be at the top of your list of pre-travel priorities.


Take care of the kids

If you are a parent, make sure your kids are protected in the event something happens to you. First and foremost, make sure you have updated estate planning documentation around custody and who will serve as the primary caretaker in your absence. If you are traveling without your kids, some families take the extra step of working with a trusted estate planning attorney to draft a delegation of parental rights, a document that functions like a power of attorney for child care. Essentially a delegation of powers by parent or guardian form (also referred to as a Delegation of Parental Authority or DOPA), passes legal authority to another trusted adult to make decisions for your child for up to 180 days.


Get your docs in a row

It is a good idea to make sure your power of attorney documents are accurate and updated, especially if your vacation plans will take you out of the country. Note that there are different types of power of attorney: an immediate power of attorney that goes into effect essentially right away, and a “springing” power of attorney that only goes into effect if you are incapacitated or can no longer be responsible for your own decision-making. If your power of attorney documentation falls into the latter category, you should consider writing a letter clarifying that those powers can take effect immediately while you are on vacation.


Safeguard your health

Take the time to review any plans or documents pertaining to your health and wellbeing. This is another case where you want to be extra diligent if you are planning to leave the country on your vacation. It never hurts to travel with a healthcare power of attorney documentation to make it absolutely clear who is empowered to make medical decisions for you in an emergency. Make sure your health insurance still applies in whatever country is your vacation destination—and make sure it includes coverage for evacuation/transportation back to the U.S. if needed. Consider purchasing extra travel insurance to cover any shortfalls in your existing coverage.


Trust—but verify

Check beneficiary designations and make sure they’re up to date before you hit the road or board that plane. It’s also a good idea to review your real estate documents, especially the title on your home or property. Sometimes, if you have procured a HELOC loan or refinanced your home, the bank might have taken your home out of your trust and not put it back in.


Pre-vacation best practices

  • Review estate planning documents: Even if you already have estate planning documents drafted, take the time to review them. If possible, schedule a time to talk things through with a trusted estate planning attorney. Circumstances change and the person you delegated to manage your affairs ten years ago might not be who you want making decisions for you today.


  • Easy access: Before you head out on your vacation, let people know where to find the original estate planning documents—ideally both a hard copy and an electronic copy. For electronic documents, make sure you leave instructions to access them (including passwords) and provide basic information about any bills or regular financial obligations that need to be taken care of.


  • Organization is key: Consider consolidating your estate planning documents and other essential information and putting them in one location. Include instructions and information about everything from life insurance and bill paying, to pet care and custody.


A little pre-vacation preparation and planning can go a long way in terms of ensuring your peace of mind. That way, when you’re strolling through a museum, enjoying a memorable meal in a fantastic restaurant, or walking on a warm sandy beach, you can be focused on having a great time, secure in the knowledge that your estate plan, your health, your loved ones, and your assets are protected and provided for.


Schedule a complimentary legal consultation with our trusted estate planning attorneys today to get the process started now.

The information in this blog post is based on general legal and tax rules and is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal or tax advice. Readers should consult their own legal and tax advisors as to their specific legal or tax situation as it may require more complex analysis, or the consideration of other information.