Inevitably, in the summer months, I get phone calls from people who are about to take a trip somewhere, often within just a few days. Sometimes they have a Will or a trust that’s out of date; sometimes they have no estate planning documents at all; sometimes they have just finished getting divorced and are in a panic because they haven’t gotten around to updating their Will or trust.
Much as I try to help everyone who calls, sometimes (often) there’s just not enough time to update their documents before that plane takes off or the road trip starts. What to do?
Although none of the documents I’m about to suggest take the place of a well-drafted Will or trust, they can serve to get something in place before a trip, quickly and with minimal or no expense. Upon your return, you can come in and get the job done right — but at least you can take to the skies with some peace of mind.
Once you’ve gotten these documents signed, either give them to a trusted friend or relative until you get back home, or let people know where to find them should something happen to you while you are traveling.
Wills — The California State Bar Association offers a statutory Will. This is a fill-in-the-blank Will that you can print out, fill in, and sign before two witnesses that are unrelated to you and not named in the document. A Will allows you to leave your property to specific people and name guardians for minor children.
Durable Power of Attorney — here’s a link to the California statutory Durable Power of Attorney. You use this Durable Power of Attorney to appoint someone to act as your Agent with respect to property. You need to have this notarized.
Advance Health Care Directive –The California Medical Association offers a downloadable Advance Health Care Directive kit for six dollars. You use this Directive to appoint Agents who can make medical decisions for you and to state your end of life choices, and to make yourself available as an organ donor. You can sign this form in front of two witnesses, or take it to a notary public.
Bon Voyage, and call me when you get back!