Having an estate plan is always a good idea, but if you are traveling or going on vacation it is essential. Here are five estate planning must-do’s before you go on your next trip or vacation:

1. Check Your Beneficiary Designations.   Many assets that you own such as life insurance, retirement accounts and bank accounts have beneficiary designations available.  For many people these assets make up the majority of their net worth.   Many times, these beneficiary designations are blank or out of date.   If you have been married, divorced, have had children or opened any new accounts in the last 10 years – you should check the beneficiary designations on these accounts to make sure they are updated.

2. Make a Will.   A Will is the basic-foundation document of an estate plan. This document says where you want your assets that don’t have beneficiary designations (“Probate Assets”) to go upon your death.   If you don’t have a properly signed Will for yourself, your assets will go to your heirs per Illinois law.   If you are married with children, that means that half of your Probate Assets go to your spouse and the other half of your Probate Assets go to your children when you die – probably not what you want.

3. Have Power of Attorney Documents.   In Illinois you can name someone to act as your agent to make decisions on your behalf in the event you are still living but can no longer make decisions for yourself.  You need to have two types of documents signed.  A Power of Attorney for Healthcare designates someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are mentally incapacitated.  A Power of Attorney for Property allows someone to make property related decisions and access your accounts if you become mentally incapacitated.

4. Name Guardians for Your Minor Children.  If you have children under the age of 18 you need to name guardians to physically take care of them if something were to happen to you while traveling.   You can name guardians for your children in your Will.  One of the primary reasons people with young children sign Wills is to name guardians for their minor children.

5. Organize Your Digital Assets.  The average person has well over 20 digital accounts with e-mail, social media, photo sharing and file storage accounts.   At minimum, write down your passwords to these accounts so someone could find them in an emergency.   Also consider using the website LastPass or a similar service to store and organize your passwords.

Conclusion

The Ritchie Law Office, Ltd. is a Bloomington, Illinois law firm and estate planning is what we do.   Many of our clients are motivated to get their estate planning done before leaving on a vacation.  We strive to make the process straight forward and easy to understand.

Contact the Ritchie Law Office, Ltd.  at (309) 273-1500 or morgan@ritchielawoffice.com to schedule a Ritchie Wealth Planning Session – your first step in getting your estate plan done.  If you call the Ritchie Law Office, Ltd. during the months of June or July to schedule your appointment — mention this article and we will waive the consultation fee.