So we're one month into the year (yay!). You guys are probably getting that itchy foot right about now as you look at flights to Cancun or Berlin hoping this cold weather will end soon. Or maybe it's for that missions or non-profit volunteer excursion this summer. Or perhaps something a lot more dangerous to help out your fellow humans in places like Syria or West Africa. Or you're probably looking at becoming one of those sophisticated ex-pats living in London or Tokyo. Anyways, welcome to our four-part blog series on estate planning for travelers! Our first part is for the study-abroad types, backpackers, and general itchy footers who want to experience new cultures to bring back stories. Regardless of where your wanderlust takes you across this little blue marble, here are some tips to consider before you book those plane tickets.
1. Draft a Last Will, Power of Attorney, and Healthcare Directive
Probably the last thing on your mind, and you probably have never had a Last Will or even considered it. But think about this: what will happen to your cat or your prized vinyl collection? You certainly want your fresh beats ending up with someone who admires good music as much as you. Getting the ball rolling on a Will-based plan right now can give you the peace of mind knowing that your stuff will be taken care of. When you start an estate plan with the central document of a Last Will, you give yourself three advantages: (1) a plan for the future, (2) control how your assets are distributed, and (3) your affairs are in order (even if your dating life isn't!).
Events usually hit the wanderluster abroad. That's how you get stories. From my personal harrowing experiences almost getting mugged abroad and having to sit through a high-speed train accident, literally anything can happen. Thankfully those stories ended without incident, but think about if something does happen. I'm not trying to scare you! Promise. To prepare for anything, you'll want to execute a power of attorney with someone you trust a lot (thanks Dad). That will ensure that your financial and medical needs are taken care of, even if you can't do that yourself.
2. Insurance and Beneficiary Designations
Life insurance may not be on your plate right now, but it does help to think about it. Travel insurance may be more appropriate for you as well to make sure that the airline doesn't break that ukulele you're bringing back from Hawaii. Perhaps some international health insurance too. As for beneficiary designations, that's not just for the life insurance your parents are begging you to get while you're still young (and premiums are cheap). This includes things like your bank accounts, life insurance policies, stock portfolios, 401(k)s, profit share agreements (in that startup you co-own), to name a few. Making sure these are updated is perhaps the most efficient and cost-effective way to give your assets to your loved one outside of the lengthy court process that a Last Will goes through.
3. Register with the State Department's STEP Program and check out their Traveler's Checklist
You can find the link to STEP... HERE. This free service thanks to Uncle Sam allows you to enroll your trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to receive alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. Your folks or friends will thank you later that you didn't rack up their phone bill with 20 missed international calls. The State Department also has a great checklist for documents and things to do in addition to everything we've talked about.
4. Pack your bags light!
Back when I was on my first trip abroad, I was lugging around a 40-pound bag during one of Europe's hottest and pollen-filled months in years. You'll want to ditch the check-in bag and pack pretty light so it can fit in a good locker in the town center or you can race towards your connecting flight in the other terminal. Practical but decent clothing will go miles for you (literally and figuratively). Perhaps the biggest lesson I can share with you about traveling abroad is that it really makes you focus on only bringing the things that really matter. Minimalism. Kind of like how we at Gamboa + Law make law cool by boiling things down to what really matters.
Hope these tips help and we'll see you next time for our post tailor-made for Non-Profit Volunteers!