Imagine the scene—it’s vacation time. You push the umbrella into the sand, watch the ocean waves roll up onto the beach in sublime rhythm. Your kids run out into the water, maybe, toting boogie boards and laughter. It’s summer—the week ahead stretches out lazily, and all you have to do for the first time in months is just relax and enjoy family time.

You sink into your beach chair, feel the hot sun blazing down on your skin … wait, something’s not right! The heat triggers a memory.

You jump and race up the beach to the nearest phone (unless you are one of those that can’t leave it behind) to call a neighbour, someone, anyone.

You realize you forgot to turn off the stove!

As frightening as that scenario is, there are equally important red flags that should trigger a similar alarm when preparing for vacation. Take for example the vital questions such as what would happen if you and/or your spouse were killed on the trip? What would happen to your children if you were incapacitated thousands of miles away from home? Have you prepared your will?

The last thing you need to worry about on vacation is what will happen if you don’t come back, and a good set of estate planning documents will keep that worry far from your mind. This typically means setting up a will and power of attorney tailored to the unique needs of your family before hitting the road.

Remember, simply writing a few requests down on a piece of paper does not mean you have a plan in place! A will must meet statutory requirements to be ruled as valid in the eyes of a court. Even if that sheet of paper accurately describes your post-mortem wishes, there is no guarantee that the court will even consider the document. And in Ontario, the only way you can name guardians for your children is by a will.

So, before you even consider slipping into your bathing suit and hitting the surf, make sure you know that your family is taken care of by planning for the worst and expecting the best!

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Michele R.J. Allinotte is the owner of Allinotte Law Office Professional Corporation in Cornwall, Ontario and she helps her clients make the best decisions for themselves, their families and their businesses. Her practice focuses on the areas of business law, estate planning and real estate. Visit www.YourCornwallLawyer.com to get her FREE Peace of Mind Personal Inventory to make sure that your family has all the information they need.