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Overseas Travel Often Triggers Estate Planning

Posted September 2016

Nothing stimulates estate planning like a trip overseas. While a vacation trip within the continental United States may prompt people to review estate-planning documents, there is something about an impending flight over an ocean that really stirs people to action.

Are you planning an overseas trip for this year or next? You don’t want to be in the position of some travelers who make this type of frantic inquiry: “My spouse and I leave for a European trip in two weeks, and we are concerned that our property might not be divided as we wish in case something should happen to us. We executed wills 25 years ago, right after the birth of our first child, but we have not looked at them for years. What are the really important things that we should complete before leaving?”

Ideally, the question would have been posed two months earlier, when there would have been time to develop a current and complete estate plan (including charitable beneficiaries). Given the brief time before their departure and all of the other things they must do in preparation for the trip, these travelers can perhaps accomplish the following essential things, if they call an attorney without delay:

  • Update their wills in light of changes in family and financial circumstances and perhaps in their choices of charitable beneficiaries.
  • Make sure that beneficiary designations for life insurance proceeds and assets remaining in an IRA or other retirement plan reflect current wishes.
  • Review and, if necessary, execute powers of attorney granting someone authority to act in their behalf regarding financial and health care matters.
  • Make a list of assets and where information about them can be found. Include passwords to any online accounts.

Completing at least these essential things in the short-term will give the travelers peace of mind and enable them to savor each experience of their adventure. Upon their return, it would be advisable for them to engage in more comprehensive estate planning—which would entail tax considerations and the use of various instruments, such as trusts, to accomplish their financial and charitable objectives.

If you are planning an overseas trip, it is a perfect opportunity to review your estate plan. Our office may be able to help, including providing language for your will or beneficiary designation that would ensure a legacy gift to support our mission.

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