Plane tickets are bought, hotel rooms reserved, your luggage is packed, you are ready to travel…but you might have forgotten to check off one major item on your pre-travel to-do list. Updating your estate plans before traveling can make your week of rest even more relaxing knowing that your loved ones are taken care of. 

There are four essential legal documents that every adult should have prepared that will protect them and their family. These documents direct your family and health care providers regarding your end of life plans and your estate. Your end of life plans should be clearly stated and legally enforceable in order to minimize conflicts and confusion among family members and health care providers if you become incapacitated or pass away. These essential documents include a will, revocable trust, a durable power of attorney and an advance health care directive.

A Will: A will allows you to direct the disposition of your assets after you pass away. For example, you can direct property to family, friends or charity. As part of the will you will designate an executor to carry out your wishes and name a guardian if you have minor or dependent children.

Revocable Living Trust: If you own real estate or have considerable assets, another option you may want to consider is a revocable living trust. This functions like a will but allows your estate to avoid the time and expense of probate (the public legal process of administering an estate under a will) and helps ensure your estate’s privacy.

Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney allows you to designate someone you trust to make financial, tax and legal decisions on your behalf if you lose your decision-making capacity.

Advance Health Care Directive: This directive includes two documents that spell out your wishes regarding your end-of-life medical treatment. A “living will” tells your doctor what kind of care you want to receive if you become incapacitated. In a “health care power of attorney” you authorize a person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.

You should hire an attorney if you have a complicated financial situation, blended family or have considerable assets. Additionally, you may hire an attorney if you simply want assistance. An experienced lawyer can make sure you cover all your bases – especially when writing a will or living trust – which can help avoid family confusion after you’ve gone.

Costs will vary, but you can expect to pay somewhere between $200 and $1,000 for a will or $1,200 to $5,000 for a living trust.

Unsure of where to start? Request our FREE book, Provide and Protect, which will provide you with choices on how you can provide for your loved ones, receive tax benefits, generate potential retirement income and support charities at the same time. We also offer a free estate and gift planning guide to assist you. Information in this kit includes a workbook, suggested beneficiary language and more information on how to give back and support Texas A&M University. 

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of “The Savvy Living” Book. This article is offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics.

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