Planning a vacation is often what people look forward to most about the summer holidays. It is a time for us to step away from our responsibilities and unwind. Whether you are planning a solo trip, a getaway with your significant other, or a family vacation, traveling allows you to create lasting memories outside of your everyday life. And while planning for a trip can be a lot of work already, it is important to also think through what would happen if something went wrong while you were away from home.
Planning and traveling go hand-in-hand, but it’s not just clothes and a toothbrush you need to pack– don’t forget about your digital packing as well. Digital packing refers to ensuring you have all your important accounts and documents in order before you go. This includes things like your Will, healthcare directive, and Guardianship documents. Why are these documents so important? If you are traveling outside of your hometown and far from many of your loved ones, you’ll want to be prepared if you are in an emergency. Additionally, Guardianship documents are an essential safety measure if you are traveling with minor children. This guide will show you the best way to counteract any unexpected travel mishaps: updating your Estate Plan, including healthcare documents, and ensuring the right people have access to it.
What is Estate Planning and Why is it Important?
Estate Planning is the creation of a detailed document laying out your plans for your assets should you die or if you can longer be responsible for them yourself. Your assets can include but are not limited to:
Not only does Estate Planning detail what should happen to your assets, but it allows you the chance to make known your wishes regarding your health directives and the welfare of your minor children should you become incapacitated by an illness, tragic accident, or any other debilitating circumstances. By creating and updating your Estate Plan before you travel, you are taking necessary precautions to protect yourself, your children, and your assets.
Digital Packing Tips When Traveling
There are several parts of your Estate Plan you will want to update before you set off on your trip. Make sure that you have these items checked off your digital packing list before you go– and most importantly, share these documents with someone at home.
Wills and Trusts
Your Will gives a more detailed account of your assets and who is to receive your belongings upon your death. The list of the assets you will want to be passed along to your loved ones may change over time, affecting your Will. It is easy to put off updating your Will as you are already juggling so many other day-to-day tasks and pressing responsibilities. In between work, dropping off and picking up your children from their daily activities, completing your long list of household chores, and so much more, it can feel impossible to find the time to update your Will. However, before a trip is a perfect time to ensure your Will is fully up to date in case of an unforeseeable occurrence.
A Trust is a legal document in which you appoint the responsibility of managing your assets to a Trustee of your choosing. It is common to make yourself the Trustee, with a successor Trustee listed in case you find yourself in a position where you cannot be responsible for your assets. A Trust also allows for a smooth transition of your assets upon your death, often granting your loved ones the ability to skip probate court entirely. If you have a Trust in addition to a Will, it will be important to thoroughly review them before traveling to ensure all assets you want, including those within your Trust are accounted for.
Healthcare Directives are essential to ensure that your desires regarding your healthcare preferences are carried out as you would want them to be, even if you are unable to verbalize your wishes to medical personnel. Your Healthcare Directive is a document that specifically states your requests while also listing who of your loved ones is allowed to make decisions on your behalf when you cannot do so yourself.
When traveling, it becomes even more important that your healthcare directives are fully updated. If you are traveling, perhaps outside of your home country and far from many of your loved ones, should you end up in a life-threatening situation, a coma, or in need of emergency surgery, you will want to make sure your healthcare wishes will be met.
It can often be beneficial to add one of the people you are traveling with to the list of people allowed to receive medical information on your condition for the duration of the trip. No one wants to be involved in a situation whereby they are hospitalized and incapacitated in a location far from home, with no one there to speak on your behalf regarding their medical decisions. By adding a member of your traveling party to your Healthcare Directive for the duration of the trip, you can rest more easily knowing you have prepared for any unfortunate situation that may arise.
If you are someone with minor children, Guardianship documents are an essential safety measure when traveling. These documents will specify to whom you give authority over your minor children if you cannot care for them due to death or a medical emergency. When you are traveling, it can increase your chances of being in an accident. Additionally, taking a family vacation can increase the risk of both parents becoming incapacitated or dying simultaneously, leaving your children unattended to and unprotected. However, with the nomination of Guardianship documents, you can ensure that you have a set plan for your children’s care, even in the unimaginable, worst-case scenarios.
Upload and Share Documents
Having all your documents in one place that is easily accessible to both you and your loved ones is crucial. Many digital vault services can provide you with a secure location to upload and share your documents. This way, should something happen to you while you are away from home, your loved ones can quickly and easily locate all of the information they need to make important decisions on your behalf.
Trust & Will offers a shared access feature for your Estate Plan so your loved ones can view your important documents. You can upload your Estate Plan and notify the people who may be included in it, for example, an Executor or Beneficiary. Enjoy the gift of peace of mind on your next vacation (and beyond) by knowing you have a solid plan in place and people you trust have access to it.
Traveling can be an exciting and fun adventure to share with your loved ones, especially during the summer. However, travel does pose some added risks to the safety and health of you and your family members. The last thing you want on your mind during your vacation is worrying about the unpredictable. Luckily, with Trust & Will’s online Estate Planning services, you can prepare for any situation you may face. You can create a fully customizable, state-specific Estate Plan from the comfort of your own home in just 20 minutes. Take our free quiz to see where you should start, or compare our different estate planning options today!
About the Author
Patrick is Head of Legal at Trust & Will, serving as General Counsel overseeing all attorney-related operations, including regulatory efforts and legal affairs. As a seasoned estate planning attorney, Patrick brings over a decade of knowledge and real-life taxation law experience to our service offerings. He holds a B.A. in Economics from Davidson College, a J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, and an LL.M in Taxation from the University of San Diego. Before joining Trust & Will, Patrick practiced law in the trusts and estates practice group of the law firm Hahn Loeser & Parks LLP. While attending undergrad, Patrick served as a firefighter for the Davidson Fire Department.
About Trust & Will
Trust & Will is a modern approach to digital estate planning, offering legally valid documents designed and approved by estate planning attorneys to adhere to individual state guidelines. Since 2017, more than 300,000 Trust & Will members have created an online estate plan to set up their family legacy. We make estate planning simple, affordable, and accessible by providing a secure way to set up a plan online in minutes, using bank-level encryption that protects customer data and complies with the highest security standards, including SOC2. Trust & Will is the official estate planning benefit provider for AARP members and is a proud partner of several leading financial institutions, including Northwestern Mutual and Haven Life. To learn more, visit www.trustandwill.com.
By Patrick Hicks, Head of Legal with Trust & Will