Here we are deep in another Minnesota winter. As beautiful as a crisp winter day can be, many of us take an opportunity to take a trip to a warmer climate. Whether you will be boarding a plane or driving long distances, you are probably making a checklist of items to be done before you leave. Making sure your estate plan is in place and up-to-date can allow you to embark with peace of mind. Here are some to-do items for your estate planning checklist:
1. Put your estate plan in place or update an existing one. For many people, planning for a vacation is the push they need to finally get an estate plan in place. Making a will or trust can help ensure your wishes are followed and your loved ones are protected. You can also say who you would want to act as guardian for your minor children. Be sure to schedule an appointment with an estate planning attorney and put your estate plan in place before you pack your bags.
2. Complete a power of attorney and health care designation. While a will or trust can help protect your loved ones after your death, a power of attorney and health care declaration is for your and your family while you are living but unable to act for yourself. Unfortunately, accidents do happen on vacation and delays are part of travel. Your health care agent will review your health care declaration and help your medical team follow your wishes, beliefs, and goals about illness and dying, while an attorney-in-fact can help you keep your finances running smoothly. These documents are typically included with your overall estate plan.
3. Review your beneficiary designations and insurance. A benificiary designation says who will get the asset upon your death. For instance, the beneficiary you've named of a life insurance policy will get the benefit of the policy outright upon your death. If you have young children, it usually makes more sense for that benefit to be held in trust for their benefit. Reviewing and changing beneficiary designations is good financial housekeeping and an essential part of your estate plan.
4. Organize your assets and important documents. Before taking a trip is a great time to organize your financial information and important documents. You've left instructions for feeding and watering your pets, so be sure you also leave good instructions for the person in charge of administering your estate. This should include not only where you have accounts and some identifying information, but also your online presence, including passwords and usernames. Keeping this information organized and up-to-date will make it easier for your family to manage your affairs if you are not able.
5. Include plans for your vacation property. If your vacation destination is a property you own, you should consider how it will pass to your loved ones upon your death. In most situations, if you do nothing it will require an out-of-state probate. This can be an administrative burden and a lengthy process. A simpler way to manage a vacation property would be to use a transfer on death deed or trust. Since not all states recognize transfer on death deeds, which are essentially beneficiary designations on real estate, be sure you and your attorney discuss this asset when crafting your estate plan.
When you've been working hard, you deserve a nice break. Checking off these five to-do items before checking into your resort will give you the satisfaction of knowing your family is protected so that you can more fully enjoy the fruits of your labor.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (507) 288-5567.