Adulting: How to prepare for summer travel with estate planning.
Many years ago, I read a story about a family who was in a car wreck while on vacation in another state. The parents were killed, but all of the children survived and since the parents did not have an estate plan, the kids were put through a long, traumatizing court process. They were in foster care for 18 months before the guardian was appointed and could take them home. It was up to the state to approve medical treatments for the kids. Thousands of dollars were spent on legal fees. The youngest child had been 18 months old at the time of the car wreck, and he was three years old when he finally went home with the guardian.
The case really shook me, especially because at the time, my youngest was only two years old, and imagining that scenario was terrifying. It had a huge impact on the way I did planning for my clients. I have always started from facing the worst possible scenarios that could happen, and then planning to avoid any bad legal outcome that we could identify.
I think that doing your estate planning before going on a vacation is such a great idea, not just because your risk of death and incapacity goes up when you travel, but also because when you have finished this very adult task, you get the reward of a vacation. Here are my tips on getting your estate planning done before your summer vacation:
1. Start NOW. If you start in April, you can be totally finished by June.
The estate planning process with my office typically takes about two months to fully accomplish. The process is typically a three-meeting process: 1) Initial meeting + plan design; 2) Signing meeting; 3) Final meeting. With about 4 weeks between meetings, it's about a 2-month process from 1st meeting to last. So it is important to start as soon as possible, and April is the perfect time to start if you want to travel this summer.
2. Create a Guardian Plan for your kids.
For the kids, you want to create a plan for their care if something happens to you. You want to name long-term guardians who will care for your kids until they are adults, and you also want to name short-term guardians who can pick the kids up pretty quickly in the event of emergency. Many of my clients who live in the Portland, Oregon area have moved here from another state, and the guardian piece becomes super important then. These folks may not have any family in town, and even more importantly, they may have different values. From their families and prefer to name friends. Legally documenting these wishes is a must, because it is not easily accomplished otherwise.
3. Create a Revocable Living Trust plan for your assets.
For your assets, you want to create a plan that will be easy for your family and keep your assets safe so that they can be used to further your goals for your spouse and kids. The best way to do this is through a revocable living trust plan. Unlike a will-based plan, a trust-based plan (if set up properly) will avoid lengthy, time-consuming, expensive court processes. This means that your family will have access to the funds they need when they need it.
4. Plan for being incapacitated, not just dying.
Your plan should not be a plan just for death, but also for incapacity—when you are still alive but not able to make parenting, financial, and healthcare decisions for yourself. A revocable living trust plan is a great way to plan for your assets if you are incapacitated. It allows your trustee to step in and immediately handle your assets if you are not able to do so yourself. You also want to make sure that you have named a healthcare representative and outlined your healthcare wishes.
5. Communicate your plan with all parties involved.
The most overlooked part of your plan is that you need to communicate that plan with everyone involved. If no one knows who your lawyer is, how to get a hold of your documents, or who is named in what role, your plan will be a failure. At my office, we write to everyone involved in the plan to let them know they might be called upon to serve, what the role entails, and what to do if our client is incapacitated or dies.
Those are the steps that you should take over the next couple of months to prepare your estate plan before summer travel. The hardest part is setting up and keeping that first meeting. Do it now, and you are halfway there.
If you want to get started, read about our estate planning services and schedule an appointment.
To your family's health + happiness,
Candice N. Aiston
P.S. Want to get started slowly but surely, naming guardians for your kids? Check out our Guardian Plan kit.
Want to use this article in your newsletter or on your blog or website?
You can! Just please be sure to use this complete blurb with it:
Candice N. Aiston is an Legal Planning Attorney for Estates + Businesses in the Portland, Oregon area. She helps people to prepare for a lifetime of security, prosperity, and guidance. If you would like to receive her free reports, please visit http://aistonlaw.com/ to sign up. Follow her Facebook page for daily planning tips: https://www.facebook.com/aistonlaw/.