Vacation time is around the corner.  Parents and children are traveling alone or together, abroad or in the U.S. In the rush to make plans to get away, getting your will written may seem to have low priority.   It shouldn’t.

What happens if your children are at camp, and one or both parents die?  Who will take the children, and how will the children get to them?  Will the courts allow a loving relative to take the children if the deceased has not left properly-executed documents appointing a guardian?  And what if the loving relative is a foreigner, living abroad?  Will an American court agree to send the children abroad – even if the parents came from that country and were only here temporarily?  You may not realize that in most cases your children will temporarily go into foster care if you have not formally provided otherwise.

And what of your assets?  Did you know that if you do not provide for the distribution of your wealth, the courts will distribute it according to the laws of the state in which you are domiciled?  And that your “heirs” may be people you haven’t thought of in years?  You may have intended, for example, to have all of your assets go first to your spouse upon your death, and then to your distant cousin, and may have wanted your jewelry to go to your favorite niece.  If you haven’t stated all this in a properly witnessed and executed will, the courts may distribute some of your wealth to your parents, your siblings, or the local Board of Education – the default “heir” in Maryland when other categories of heirs do not exist, and when there is no will.

If you are not a U.S. citizen and have property both in the U.S. and abroad, what will happen if you make a will here?  Will it be recognized in your home country?  And if you die here but “only” have a will from another country, will a U.S. court carry out your wishes?  These are important considerations, and good legal advice is essential.

Before you take that vacation, now is a good time to plan for an orderly distribution of your assets when the day comes that you pass away.  You may wish to make certain that your money goes to your children in stages rather than all at once.  You may wish to arrange your estate plan to minimize taxes.  Or you may wish to provide for a loved one’s use of your estate for his or her lifetime, but make certain the remaining assets will ultimately be given to a specific beneficiary.  You will decide now who that ultimate beneficiary will be.  All of this can be accomplished through the use of appropriate restrictions and instructions in your will, often in various forms of trusts.

Planning now is an excellent idea.  I will be happy to speak with you during an initial complementary consultation, and help you to begin and carry out the process of planning for the future.