Many people contact their lawyer within days of taking their trip. This is not ideal, as you should not rush the completion of your estate plan. If at all possible, you should contact your attorney at least one month in advance of leaving. Should you find it necessary to establish a plan quickly, establish a simple plan and commit to refining it upon your return. This includes a health care proxy, durable power of attorney, last will and testament, and possibly a homestead declaration.
Should you experience an illness or injury while traveling that leaves you unable to handle your medical or financial decisions, having a health care proxy and durable power of attorney in place will make a world of difference.
A health care proxy is a document in which you designate someone to make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated. Similarly, a durable power of attorney is a document in which you designate someone to make your financial decisions. Having these documents in place allows the trusted person you have named to start handling your affairs as soon as you need assistance.
God forbid you should pass away while traveling. Your family and loved ones would surely be shocked and distraught. But in the event that tragedy occurs, a last will and testament can provide some order during that otherwise difficult time. Your will sets forth the distribution of your probate estate, which are the assets that you leave in your name alone with no named beneficiary. In your will, you will also designate an executor, who is the person who will be responsible for carrying out your plan.Should you have minor children, you will also name a guardian, and possibly a trustee, who will be responsible for taking care of your children in your absence. This planning takes a tremendous burden off of your family members.
For homeowners, a homestead declaration is a necessity. The homestead declaration is a one-page form that, once recorded in the Registry of Deeds, affirms that your principal residence is your homestead. The homestead declaration will protect the equity in your home up to $500,000 from judgments that arise after the declaration was recorded. Should you happen to cause an accident while traveling, the declaration will ensure that even if you are sued and your insurance is not sufficient, up to $500,000 of the equity in your home will be protected.
Photo credit: Microsoft