By Linda M. Toga, Esq.
It is that time of year when many people make vacation plans that involve flying or driving long distances or engaging in activities that are risker than their day to day activities. Whatever their vacation plans may include, being in a different environment, coupled with the risks associated with travel and the possibility that something could go very wrong, often provide the needed impetus for people to think about and address their estate planning needs. The urgency to complete a comprehensive estate plan prior to heading to the airport, interstate or cruise ship is even more pronounced if the people who are leaving on vacation have young children.
Since there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to estate planning, the process is not something that should be rushed or taken lightly. While I have prepared and supervised the execution of a client’s Will, healthcare proxy, power of attorney and living will hours before he left on a trip and within 24 hours of first meeting with the client to discuss his needs and goals, I do not suggest that approach. Instead, before vacation plans are made, I suggest that everyone who does not have an estate plan in place or who does not have a plan that reflects his/her current situation and goals, consult with an attorney experienced in estate planning.
There are many things that need to be considered when developing an estate plan, including but not limited to, whether it is best to create a trust or a Will, whether estate tax will be an issue, how and when assets are to be distributed and to whom, and who will serve as executor, trustee and/or guardian. In addition to thinking about what will happen upon death, people engaging in estate planning should think about who will have the authority to make healthcare decisions and handle financial transactions on their behalf while they are still alive should the need arise.
The decisions that go into creating an estate plan are often difficult and emotions can run high. Since the individuals who serve as executors, trustees, guardians and agents assume a great deal of responsibility, it is important to discuss your plans with these people in advance. Coming up with a plan that meets your needs and accomplishes your goal takes time, which brings me back to the fact that the process should not be done as you pack your bags for vacation. Before booking a trip, schedule an estate planning consultation. The peace of mind that comes from knowing your affairs are in order will make your vacation that much more enjoyable.
Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of litigation, estate planning and real estate from her East Setauket office.