Summer Vacation Estate Planning Checklist
By Yvonne Olivere, Esq.
Traveling without the kids? Kids traveling without you? Before you part, plan.
Time away from the kids can be both relaxing and stressful. You’re less apt to worry about what could go wrong, however, if you’ve made plans for the worst case scenario of something happening to your children while you are away, or vice versa. Whether you’re leaving the kids with a loved one so you can enjoy a grownup vacation or the kids are leaving you to spend time with friends or family, a little bit of planning on your part will go a long way towards ensuring summertime peace of mind.
Authorize medical care for your children
As the parent or legal guardian of a minor child (18 years or younger), you need to provide legal authorization for a non-parent caretaker to make medical decisions on behalf of your child while you are apart. A standard authorization document is broad enough to cover most plausible medical scenarios, but you can choose to include restrictions and limitations. An estate planning attorney can help you draft an arrangement that suits your needs.
Naming guardians—the people who will raise your children if you aren’t able to—is perhaps the single most important estate planning consideration for the parents of minor children. This is, admittedly, a difficult decision, and not one to take lightly (see my blog from April on stapletonmoms.com for guidance on that topic). You can put it off some by giving your children’s summertime caretaker legal short-term guardianship, but sooner or later (preferably sooner), you’ll also want to grant long-term guardianship to a trusted adult. As an estate planning attorney and mother of three, I can guide you through the process of appointing guardians.
Create an Estate Plan
Faced with the prospect of being away from your children even for a couple of weeks might give you the necessary focus (as a mom of three myself, it’s fear for me!) to think about what would happen if the separation was permanent. Don’t let the word “estate” fool you; even those of the humblest means have things to pass on to their children. And an estate plan contains more than instructions for material asset distribution. You can even specify in a plan the values you want instilled in your children by guardians and conditions on inheritance to prevent “trust fund child” syndrome. Failing to come up with an estate plan leaves decisions in the hands of the state and can create undue stress on survivors. A thorough estate plan gives you have greater control over your legacy.
Revise Your Estate Plan
An out-of-date estate plan could be nearly as problematic as no estate plan at all. Life changes quickly. The addition of a family member, a divorce, the acquisition of new assets, or a change in thinking about who would make the best guardians are just a few of the estate planning issues that should be revisited every couple of years. An estate plan update may not be the sexiest part of your summer, but it may just be the smartest.
Leave an Action Plan
A “Legacy Drawer” is a centralized location where all of your estate planning and other important documents/information can be accessed by your family should something happen to you. Items to include in a legacy drawer include your will and estate plan, personal information such as dates of birth and social security numbers, financial and insurance policy account info, funeral instructions, legacy letters, tax returns, and usernames and passwords for online accounts. A legacy drawer is one more way to ensure you don’t leave important financial matters to chance—or to the courts. It should be organized, secure and easily accessible to loved ones. Planning is an essential component to a worry-free vacation. Yet no matter how well we plan, there is always a nagging feeling that we forgot something before leaving on vacation. Despite fears to the contrary, you probably didn’t leave the stove on or forget to lock the back doors…but you may have neglected important aspects of your estate plan.
If you have any questions about these—or other—estate planning issues, please let me know. I can be reached at Yvonne@oliverelaw.com or 303-974-5617.