Before Traveling, Make Sure Your Estate Plans Are In Order

Each time we go on vacation, we are reminded that we are mere mortals. Much as we may want to avoid the realization, there a distinct possibility that we may not return from our holiday travel. Whether it is the danger of long-distance travel, or whether it’s spending so much time behind the wheel as holiday revelers skid around in inclement weather, the reminders are everywhere.

What can you do to make sure your affairs are in order before the holidays? What steps can you take to give yourself peace of mind before you leave town?

Here are five things you can do to get your estate-planning ducks in a row this week.

Review Your Estate Plan, and Update It.

Presumably, you have an estate plan in place. If you do not yet, then do that first.

But if you do, take a look to make sure it is up to date with recent changes in tax laws. If an executor or a trustee should be changed — for example, if one cannot complete their currently designated function, for some reason — address that before you go.

If you are married, make sure your spouse knows where plans are stored. Confirm that your spouse understands how to make sure the plans are being followed, and who to contact at your insurance agency, at your financial institutions, and at your attorney’s offices.

If you have a living trust, confirm its location and talk over the details and the stated preferences.

Check Your Beneficiary Designations.

Has anyone’s name changed? Has your daughter married? Have any of the named beneficiaries died since you last reviewed your plans?

If any of your beneficiaries are minors, or if any are incapacitated or injured, you will want to set up a trust for that person and name the trust as the beneficiary on some assets.

Some of the assets you have should not go into your living trust, so confirm with your attorney that those assets are correctly identified.

Look at the Plans to Protect Your Children.

If you have had additional children since you last reviewed your plans, make sure they are all fully listed, and that guardianship is clarified and named. In case your named guardian becomes ill, or decides not to fulfill the duties, name a back-up just in case. Be sure to choose someone who is responsible enough to manage the details of your inheritance.

Confirm Your Insurance Coverage.

Is the coverage you have sufficient? Are your accounts fully paid, and your life insurance policies are up-to-date and valid? Do you have long-term care insurance as well as basic life insurance, in case you are hospitalized?

It may be a good time to check in with your life insurance agent, just to make care everything is in order and that your paperwork is current and correct.

Talk With Your Children About the Plans.

This is never an easy conversation, but it is one you should have. Your children need to know that you are thinking about all future scenarios. If they have never worried about your absence or death, this conversation should help them prepare for that possibility. If you have worried about it, then this talk should help put their minds at ease.

You can explain the plans you have made to protect them, at least in general terms. They should know that you have life insurance, and that you have a Will, and a Living Will.

Giving your kids peace of mind is part of the reason you have made these plans, so answering their questions can help them feel ready and prepared — no matter what may happen.