When the inhabitants of Gilligan’s Island went out for their three-hour tour aboard the S. S. Minnow, chances are they were not prepared for what was about to befall them. Of course, Thurston and Eunice “Lovey” Howell (being the money-savvy individuals they were) probably had a comprehensive estate plan, complete with a Revocable Living Trust. But what about the rest of them? If they had never been rescued—or worse yet, died at sea—would Mary Ann’s family be stuck in probate court attempting to divide her property even today?
It’s easy to discuss life after disaster when we’re dealing with fictional characters, but what if it were you? Before you take a trip, you need to ask yourself some important questions: What measures have I taken to protect my legacy if something were to happen to me? Who would make medical decisions for me if I were incapacitated? Is my family aware of my wishes regarding my kids, health, and finances?
You may have booked your flight, reserved your hotel and arranged for a private tour of the Louvre, but if you haven’t made legal provisions for yourself and your family, you haven’t planned well enough. A postcard of the Champs-Élysées will not be enough to remind your loved ones of your individuality, your values, and your legacy.
So let’s take a leaf out of the Howells’ book. Here’s what you should have in place before you pack your bags: First of all, you should have a Will. A Will designates guardians for your minor children, as well as divides and distributes your assets among your beneficiaries.
In addition to a Will, you should establish a General Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Directive. These documents name an “agent” who will take charge of your financial affairs and medical decisions if you are unable to do so.
Finally, you should set up a Revocable Living Trust. Among the many benefits of a Living Trust is the fact that your loved ones will not have to deal with the possible delays and costs of probate. Furthermore, you will be able to designate not only to whom your assets are given, but when, and how. You may also establish guidelines for the use of the inheritance and protect it from things like divorce, creditors, remarriage, and unwise spending of your heirs.
Once these measures are put in place, you will be able to relax and enjoy the lights of Paris, the beaches of Hawaii, or even the oasis of the Sahara the way they were meant to be enjoyed: worry-free!
Mr. Ronald “Chip” Morrison, Jr. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and has been engaged in Louisiana trusts and estate law for the last 16 years. He has experience in both simple and complex estate matters. The firm has helped thousands of clients meet their estate planning goals and pass on lasting legacies to their loved ones. To learn more about how you can achieve your estate planning goals, please call our office at (504) 831-2348 or contact us through our website.