About this time last summer, while my daughter was away at camp for three weeks, my wife and I were invited to join some friends at a local, mountain, riverside campground.  Our friends were staying several days at the campground, which was about an hour away from our house, located at the foot of the tallest mountain on the East Coast.

We decided to make a day trip of it.

It is a beautiful, richly wooded area.  The trails and waterfalls are legendary.  And there are lots of wild animals around.

When we arrived, my friends looked frazzled. I initially assumed they were half-baked from sleeping the dirt. But it turned out they were legitimately haggard as a result of an intimate interaction with a wild, hungry black bear the previous evening.

Like all good Americans, my one friend has a bedtime ritual of eating cereal. The night before, she was making her bowl of cereal in their family minivan, where they were storing the food and the cooler.  She’d just popped out of the van with her dessert, the bowl sloshing in one hand, a spoon in the other…and before she could close the door to the van, she felt herself pushed aside.  She describes a person’s hand simply directing her to the side.  It turned out to be the furry paw of a full-sized, male bear…who also likes a nightcap.

Naturally, she got the hell out of there, backing away watchfully.  The bear had far more pressing concerns than her.  He was looking for food.

She alerted the other campers…in the loudest whisper-yell that she could muster.  And they watched helplessly together as the bear shopped for vittles, finally settling on a nice, half-opened package of barbecue potato chips. After a while, he crawled out of the van, carried the chips into the shadows, and decimated the bag.

By the next morning, it almost seemed funny.  But the danger of this kind of interaction cannot be ignored.  And the park ranger was pessimistic about the bear’s longevity.  Naturally, my brain goes to essential questions of estate planning.  So….

Before You Take Off for Summer Vacation, Take On These 5 To-Dos

It’s no surprise that Americans spend more time planning their summer vacations than they do planning their estate.  After all, a vacation is a trip you want to go on.

You can travel with more peace of mind when you’re sure you’ve taken the steps necessary to protect your family if something unthinkable happens.  Just tackle these five important tasks before you go on that much-deserved summer vacation:

Name Guardians for Minor Children — If you have children under the age of 18, you probably want to name a guardian or guardians to ensure that they will never be left in the hands of strangers or people you wouldn’t want raising them.  You can name short-term guardians in case of emergency, and then plan for long-term guardianship.  We recommend a full Kids’ Protection Plan to ensure there is no gap in your kids care.

Beneficiary Review — If it’s been a while since you updated your beneficiary forms for retirement accounts, life insurance or other assets, it’s likely time for a review — especially if there has been a major change in your life.  Make sure insurance and retirement accounts are never passed on to your minor children, without a Trust.

Estate Plan Review — If you have experienced a birth, death, marriage, divorce or other life-changing event since you last updated your estate plan, you need to be sure those changes are addressed in an updated plan. And your plan should come from an experienced Asheville estate lawyer.

Advance Healthcare Directive — If you become incapacitated and can’t make your own health care decisions, have you named someone who you can depend on to carry out your wishes?  If not, you likely will want to execute an advance health care directive that includes a durable power of attorney and a HIPAA release so your medical information can be shared.

Insurance Update – If you have life insurance, is the coverage still sufficient to meet the needs of your family?  If not, then you should revise your policy before you go.

If you haven’t done any of these things, it’s time to take care of business.  Call our office or schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best ways for you to protect and provide for your family.