You’re finally ready to take that dream vacation you’ve fantasized about your entire life. You’ve booked your plane tickets, made reservations for a fancy hotel. All of your hard work is finally going to pay off as you spend two luxurious weeks in paradise.
- Be involved in a fatal accident
- Hit your head and become incapacitated
- Die in a plane crash
- Lose your memory
The truth is that anything can happen in a split second that could leave your estate in limbo. This isn’t some form of a scare tactic either. Time did an article on 10,000 non-natural causes of death overseas by vacationers. Only 827 Americans die of unnatural causes each year abroad, and no figures are given for natural deaths.
Your dream vacation may also be in the U.S. borders, so these figures are likely higher in this case.
Traffic accidents are the biggest culprit, followed by homicide, suicide, drowning and “other accidents.”
There are two things to make note of here:
- Most people return home safely
- Death can happen
If you don’t have your estate in order, this will leave an unnecessary burden on your survivors. A few items that need to be marked off of your checklist are:
- Make a Will
- Check Beneficiary Designations
- Name a Guardian
- Make an Advance Directive
- Name a General Power of Attorney
All of these must-dos may seem overwhelming, but they’re the responsible steps to take to protect your estate. Let’s take a look at what each of these steps will do to protect your estate in the event of your demise:
Making a Will
It’s natural to put off making a will – no one wants to come to the reality that they’ll die one day. And there is always the case of “I don’t have many assets anyway.” The state won’t make a will for you either – not the will you would have written at least.
Depending on the state that you live in, your step-kids or half-siblings may not be entitled to your assets.
If you make a will, you can ensure all of your assets are divided as per your wishes. If you want to leave $20,000 for the care of your dog in a trust in your will, you can do this, or you can leave money to a neighbor, grandson, and so on.
Checking Beneficiary Designations
What many people don’t realize is that some assets are not subject to a will. These assets may include beneficiaries that will obtain the entirety of the asset on your death. A few assets that may be included are:
- Life insurance policies
All of these assets are not subject to your will. These financial institutions will allow you to designate a beneficiary. Perhaps you don’t want your ex-wife to get all of your retirement money. Make sure you check all beneficiaries before you leave for your trip.
Name a Guardian or Multiple Guardians
If you don’t have children, skip this section. Anyone that does have children needs to come to the realization that if they die, their kids will need someone that they can trust and rely on to protect them and raise them.
Guardians are normally named in a will, and you want to keep your guardian list up-to-date.
An attorney can also help you name guardians in a variety of ways if you don’t have a will written up just yet. If you name a guardian or guardians, these are individuals that will be responsible for your children if you die. Of course, if the other respective parent is still alive, they will have custody of the children.
Making an Advance Directive
An advance directive is a safeguard put in place when you’re incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions. Not all tragedies end with a person dying, and when you can make a decision on your healthcare, an advance directive can help.
This directive states who should be in charge of your care and decisions on your behalf.
These directives will allow you to specify the type of medical treatment you want and don’t want, too. This may also be called a living will in your state.
A health care power of attorney would further allow a person to make all of the decisions about your healthcare using your recommendations as an outline.
Naming a General Power of Attorney
A durable general power of attorney will be a person that makes decisions about your assets based on your assets and interests when you can’t. “Durable” is a very important word that is included because this is what allows the person to make decisions on your behalf when incapacitated.
That dream vacation can wait until all of your legal documents and estate planning are setup accordingly. And it is a fast and painless process once you call an estate planning attorney to get the ball rolling.
The Micklin Law Group, LLC is a New Jersey law firm specializing in family law and estates. Attorney Brad Micklin was recently named to The National Advocates list of Top 100 attorneys from each state. Brad has a special expertise in working with high asset divorce. You can read more on this topic by visiting our divorce blog. To set up a consultation, call 973-562-0100.