pre-vacationing tips


Gregory S. DuPont, JD, CFP April 26, 2023

Are you preparing for an upcoming vacation? Before you pack your bags and head out, there are several issues you need to address. Who will handle your affairs while you're away? What if the unthinkable happens, and you and your loved ones are in a terrible accident? How will you care for the people you leave behind?

In this blog, we'll discuss five important issues that should be addressed BEFORE leaving on vacation.

1. Review your estate plan

2. Appoint someone to manage your financial affairs

3. Review your advance directives and health insurance coverage

4. Review your travel insurance and life insurance coverage

5. Make sure you have a plan for your minor children

By addressing these issues, you can ensure your vacation is stress-free and enjoyable, without having to worry about the unexpected.

Do you have a foundational estate plan? And have you reviewed it recently?

We'll start with the most difficult topic first, estate planning. An estate plan is a set of legal documents that explains your end-of-life wishes to your trusted decision-makers and loved ones. This includes your wishes about your care, the care of any dependents, and how your money and property should be handled when you die. Below are two documents you should have before leaving for vacation.

Last Will and Testament

Every adult with assets needs a last will and testament. Most of our clients use this document as the foundation of their estate plans. This document allows you to name someone to wind up your affairs when you pass away. This person is called the executor. They will be in charge of gathering and distributing your belongings, paying any outstanding bills and taxes, etc. If you have minor children, you can also name a guardian for them in your will.

Keep in mind that if you ONLY have a will, your family will still have to go through the probate process when you die. Probate is a court process that can be expensive, time-consuming, and public.

Revocable Living Trust

A revocable living trust can allow your family to avoid the probate process. This type of trust will hold (and own) your accounts and property. You'll either need to retitle things in the trust's name while you're still alive or name the trust as a beneficiary to receive your assets at your death.

In your trust document, you'll provide your trusted decision maker (the trustee) with instructions on how to operate the trust. You can serve as trustee and retain control of trust assets until you die. You can also list yourself as a trust beneficiary and continue to benefit from accounts and property in the trust.

If you're unable to manage the trust (i.e., you're in a coma, you pass away, or are otherwise incapacitated) your successor trustee can step in and continue managing trust assets without court involvement.

Because the trust will be the owner or beneficiary of almost everything, for probate purposes, you will die owning nothing. If you own nothing in your sole name, there is nothing that has to be transferred through the probate process when you die.

Be Sure to Review Your Documents

Life circumstances often change, so it's important to review your estate planning documents often. We recommend reviewing your documents at least once every 5 years, and as major life changes occur. For example, when...

  • There is a birth or death in the family

  • There is a marriage or divorce in the family

  • Minor children become adults

  • You buy or sell a property or business

  • You (or someone in your family) receives a major inheritance

  • Family dynamics change

  • Significant change in your health, or the health of a family member

  • Significant tax law changes

When any of these occur, make sure to re-evaluate your estate plan. Do your documents still reflect your wishes?

Can someone manage your financial affairs when you cannot?

If you are out of the country, it will likely be more difficult to handle your personal financial matters (e.g., writing a check for rent, following up on an insurance claim, etc.). However, just because you're unable to do these things doesn't mean that no one else can do them for you.

A durable financial power of attorney enables you to name a trusted decision-maker to handle your financial matters. When crafting a financial POA, your estate planning attorney will discuss when you want the document to be effective. In Ohio, you can specify when this person (your agent) is allowed to act on your behalf. It can either be immediate or only upon the occurrence of an event (usually a determination that you can't manage your own affairs).

In the case of international travel, you may want to consider giving the power immediately. Then, your agent can respond as soon as there's an issue. Also, you can tailor how much authority you give your agent. You may want to limit the person’s authority to actions related to a specific transaction, or you may want to allow that person to carry out almost anything related to your finances.

How will you manage your health while you are away?

Even the healthiest person can develop a health issue while traveling. This is why it's important to choose a trusted decision-maker to make medical decisions for you. A standard estate plan typically includes a medical power of attorney, living will, advance directive, and/or HIPAA authorization form.

  • A medical POA document appoints a person to make medical decisions for you when you cannot communicate your wishes yourself.

  • A living will or advance directive document gives instructions for your end-of-life care. For example, if you would like to receive life support or be resuscitated.

  • A HIPAA authorization form grants named individuals the right to obtain your private healthcare information.

These documents can be state-specific and may not be accepted in another country. So, if you're traveling internationally and will be staying in a particular country for a long time, it may be beneficial to look into how to name a medical decision-maker under that country’s laws.

Another thing to consider is whether your health insurance will be accepted overseas. In some cases, your health insurance may be valid only in the United States. It is important that you research this and, if necessary, look for a short-term policy that will cover you while traveling.

Do you have adequate insurance?

Besides health insurance, two other types of insurance may be important for traveling. First is travel insurance. International travel can be more complicated than domestic, and having extra insurance can help you navigate the curve balls life may throw at you. Depending on the cost of your trip and the items you're taking, getting travel insurance can save you money in an emergency.

Life insurance is also important to have and review. If you already have life insurance, it's essential to fill out your beneficiary designations correctly. If you skip this step, your loved ones may not receive their death benefit. It's also important to review the policy terms and see whether any of the activities you want to engage in while on vacation will void your coverage. Sometimes insurance companies won't pay out if the insured has engaged in extreme activities like bungee jumping, skydiving, scuba diving, etc. So, if you're in an unfortunate accident while engaged in one of these activities, your loved ones may receive nothing.

What arrangements have you made for your minor children?

If you have minor children, your parental duties don't stop when going on vacation. If your kids are traveling with you, make sure you have an up-to-date passport for them or at least their birth certificate. Also, some countries may require proof that you are the child's parent or legal guardian.

If your children aren't traveling with you, it's important to have the proper documents in place so the chosen adult can fully take care of them. In Ohio, we have something called a childcare power of attorney. This allows your chosen decision-maker to authorize medical care for the child.

Meet with the attorney at DuPont & Blumenstiel, and vacation worry-free

We know that preparing for international travel has a lot of moving parts. We want to offer our assistance to ensure that you are properly protecting yourself and those you love during your amazing journey. Give us a call at 614-389-9711 to schedule an appointment before you go.

Want to learn more about how all these estate planning documents fit together? Check out our Consumer's Guide to Estate Planning in Ohio here.