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Wait, What About the Kids?

Paris for our Anniversary? What a Surprise!

by Colin Smith | Contributor

When I saw a client recently, he told me that he was taking his wife to Paris for their wedding anniversary.  After I congratulated him (and made a mental note to borrow his idea), I asked about his two children.  He told me that they were staying with friends.  As his lawyer, I received the following question: since both parents would be out of the country, were the kids fully protected in case of undue travel delay?  I reviewed their estate and prepared a few documents.  My efforts were beneficial because it turns out that they were in Paris during the latest terror tragedy and thankfully returned home on time and in perfect health.

International travel conjures up concerns of setbacks and terrorism, but domestic travel can have the same effect.  We all remember where we were on 9/11.  I am no exception:  I had flown to Washington D.C. on September 10.  On 9/11 I was safe, but I wasn’t able to get my wife on the phone until that evening.  And I wasn’t able to come home until the end of the week.  No matter where you travel, it’s important to make sure your kids are protected.

Traditionally, lawyers cover the 3 Ds:  Death, Disability, and Divorce.  But there’s another D—for disappearance.  What happens when we travel, but leave the kids at home with relatives or friends?  An estate plan should have a document that appoints a guardian for a minor child in the event of incompetence, disappearance, or incapacity.  It’s common practice for lawyers to put the language appointing a guardian of a minor child inside the will—which works beautifully if the parent is dead, but it may not cover other circumstances.  Similarly, what if the children need medical care while the parents are absent?  The parents can designate a Health Care Agent for the children if they’re not available.

A well-done estate plan will account for other related issues, such as ensuring that one spouse has access to financial resources while the other is unavailable or that someone else can assume control in the event of an unusual circumstance.  Review your plan every few years, and make sure these things are covered.  And gentlemen, if you can’t think of the right anniversary gift, she might like a few days with you in Paris.

For more information on estate planning, contact Colin Smith at Colin.Smith@ColinSmithLaw.com.

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