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There are a lot of things to think about as you plan your next vacation: what to pack, reservations to make, and where to stay. Getting your estate plans in order probably isn’t on your to-do list. Well, it should be.
Before you head out of the country, experts say it’s vital to ensure these plans are handled well before you board your flight. It’s not a conversation we like to have with ourselves, let alone our loved ones, but it’s an important one.
To help you know the ins and outs, we talked with Mitch Mitchell, an Associate Counsel of Estate Planning at Trust & Will. In his role, he acts as an integral part of the company’s internal legal team. As an experienced estate planning and probate attorney, Mitch brings over a decade of knowledge and real-life experience to Trust & Will’s service offerings. Before joining Trust & Will, Mitch was a lawyer in private practice, where he helped individuals prepare their estate plans and helped families navigate probate after the loss of a loved one. He is a Baylor University School of Law graduate, where he earned a JD. Mitch lives in Houston with his wife and three young children.
“An estate plan is not a substitute for having conversations with your loved ones about what happens when you are no longer around or cannot make your own decisions. Understandably, people avoid creating plans because they do not want to talk about or think of something morbid. But, creating a plan is one of the best gifts and legacies you can leave your family. You can alleviate the hardship when they are grappling with the hurt and uncertainty of your absence by giving them a roadmap. Talking with your family in advance, being direct — understanding they may not want to talk about it either — is an essential act of love. Start with small conversations or topics and build from there.”
We’re going to help you make that conversation easier. We had Mitch walk us through the process to help you make sure you’re prepared to take your next vacation with peace of mind.
What Is An Estate Plan?
Let’s start with the basics. An estate plan is a framework for what happens to your property when you die and determining who is responsible for carrying out your wishes. It also addresses who will step in for you in the event of incapacity. Mitch says everyone over the age of 18 should have one.
“Something about travel gets people thinking about their mortality. Of course, everyday life has more risks than plane travel, but use this worry as a natural inflection point to get it done. Like in your ordinary routine at home, if something were to happen to you far from home, you will have peace of mind that there is less uncertainty should the worst happen.”
Furthermore, anyone who does not already have a plan should get to work making their estate plan as soon as they book that trip months away.
How To Get An Estate Plan
There are common documents that are part of the typical estate plan. That includes a Will and Power of Attorney, an Advance Medical Directive, and a HIPAA Authorization. Your to-do list is having these documents drafted (or getting the forms) and getting them signed.
“You can complete the documents on your own. Your state may make its Power of Attorney forms available for free. You can work with a lawyer if you feel more comfortable with that. At Trust & Will, we enable you to create a Will-based or Trust-based plan online. No matter what path you choose, follow your state’s law to sign your estate planning documents: notarize forms that require a notary and have witnesses sign forms that need witnesses.”
Mitch says you can and should name a digital executor or otherwise ensure that your executor has the power to access your digital assets. In addition, certain online services now have legacy contact features that you should explore and configure (examples are Apple’s Legacy Contact and Google’s Inactive Account Manager).
When To Get Your Plans In Order
When should you get your plans in order? In a word: now! If you’re planning to use a lawyer, you’ll likely need several weeks to a month or more to get an appointment, receive drafts, and get your finalized documents signed.
“If you are packing your bags, it’s likely too late to give your estate planning the time and attention it deserves. But, do not be discouraged! You can and should use the urgency you feel to do something you may have been procrastinating,” says Mitch.
At Trust & Will, you can do this on your schedule. But make sure to give yourself plenty of time to print the documents (or have them shipped to you) and arrange for witnesses and a notary.
Just Get Started
“Get started now. Do not put it off another day. How do you start? Start reading about the operative documents. Then, consider who you trust to be part of your estate plan.”
Mitch says to start the process by making a list of your who and what: who do you want to be in charge (for death or incapacity), and who do you want to get your property. Having checked this list will make it a breeze to create your plan.
While it still won’t be the easiest conversation to have with your family members, it is one of the most important ones to have. The point of a vacation is to escape reality, relax and get some peace of mind. Having your estate plan in order as you take off for that vacation will allow you to do exactly that.
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