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  • December 21, 2014

Legal Corner: Travel and Your Legal Affairs - Ladue News: Business & Wealth

Legal Corner: Travel and Your Legal Affairs

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Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2014 12:00 pm

It’s approaching that time of year again: People are getting ready to pack their bags for summer vacation. But before you leave for some rest and relaxation, local attorneys say organizing your affairs—from family to work matters—should be a top priority.

So, before you hop on the plane and onto that beach chair, there is a little more work to do. First, individuals, as well as families, should notify another party of their upcoming itinerary, says Misty Watson, a principal at Danna McKitrick. Travelers also should have the proper documents in order, including estate-planning paperwork and a health care power of attorney. In the case of a travel accident or a disaster back at home, a health care power of attorney can make those all-important medical decisions for you, Watson explains. “For example, if you are leaving your kids with their grandparents, they can be the health care power of attorney for them in case of an emergency.” Setting up a last will and testament also is important for parents in case of an accident, explains Patrick Murphy, a principal at Danna McKitrick. “This is the only way to name a guardian for your children, and express your wishes for them, such as where they live and go to school.”

For business owners, attorneys recommend extra steps be taken ahead of travel. “Make sure there is someone in control with authority so critical decisions can be made, and so you can enjoy your trip and not have to worry about day-to-day operations,” notes Brian Nolan, a partner at Carmody MacDonald. He also advises setting up an out-of-office notification. “Some people don’t like everyone to know that they are gone, but it sets the client expectation; and more importantly, it ensures that any client needs can be met by providing an alternative contact, so you’re not missing a beat when you’re gone.” And like any traveler, business owners should have power-of-attorney documents ready, he adds.

Attorneys agree that prior to travel also is a good time for business owners to ensure there is a succession plan in place. In case of a sudden death or disability, they say select employees should have access to the business’ checking account and other pertinent documents during the absence of the owner. This is part of what Murphy calls a “mini-succession plan,” which includes naming a qualified successor and planning for the company’s future finances, as well as for any potential disasters that could derail it. “Every business should be thinking of that—it’s like buying insurance,” he says. “With no planning, we see far too many businesses die on the vine.”

Murphy says the urgency of going on a trip really makes people jump off square one. But he and Watson caution not to wait to take these steps at the last-minute. “Call and plan ahead of time with your attorney, not the day before you leave,” Watson notes. “It’s better than trying to patchwork a fix after the fact of a disaster.”

Having all your ducks in a row will allow for a relaxing trip, Nolan adds. “If you’re traveling for pleasure, try to enjoy the time out of the office. Getting away in this connected world is tough, but it will make you more productive when you return. And when you come back, you will be fresh and ready to work.”

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