Q: My fiancé and I are getting married in July and plan to take a honeymoon abroad to Africa’s Congo. A friend of mine suggested that we should prepare a simple estate plan and obtain travel insurance before we depart. Our only assets are our incomes, cars and nominal bank accounts. We’re covered on our parents’ medical insurance policies. So, why would we spend extra money we don’t have saved or budgeted for estate planning and travel insurance?
A: Young newlyweds, intoxicated by romance, love and passion for each other, are often deaf to the advice of others, especially those closest to them. Advice given by parents and friends seems to be remembered most at times when often it is too late, such as when a catastrophic accident occurs abroad during the honeymoon.
Regarding estate planning, while you should have a will or trust to pass assets if you die, you should have, at minimum, a durable power of attorney that gives someone you trust access to your assets in the event of an emergency while traveling abroad. Regarding travel insurance, although some health insurance companies may pay customary and reasonable hospital costs abroad, few policies will pay for medical evacuation back to the United States. Consider an example article published by the U.S. Department of State warning travelers.
While traveling through Laos, a young couple crashed into a water buffalo cart, killing the buffalo, smashing the car and leaving the woman driver with multiple fractures to her arm and leg. The couple had neither the means to pay for damages caused by the accident nor for the woman’s injuries and medical evacuation. Until arrangements for payment could be made, the Laotian authorities detained the couple. It took six weeks following the accident for the couple’s families in the U.S. to obtain and wire the funds required by Laotian authorities for the couple’s release.
In similar stories, couples have rented motor scooters in countries throughout the world that have resulted in wrecks, damage to property and injury. It’s not uncommon for authorities in countries abroad to require payments for damages, medical attention and evacuation home. I, personally, can corroborate such events as it happened to my husband and me during our own honeymoon in the Bahamas. Uninsured at the time, we rented a motor scooter and had a head-on collision with a car. Although I was unhurt, my husband suffered a severely crushed and dislocated shoulder injury. Although we were also warned by our parents to protect ourselves from such serious consequences during our honeymoon, like so many others intoxicated and captivated by the fanciful romantic busyness of newlyweds, we failed to heed our parents’ advice.
Remember that many things can happen while traveling abroad, such as assault, robbery, accidents, illness or natural disasters. Before traveling outside the U.S. and experiencing a disaster while abroad, take the time to prepare estate planning documents and obtain travel insurance to protect you and those traveling with you.
About the Author
Kristen M. Jackson is the founding partner of Jackson Law PA (407-363-9020). She is experienced in estate planning, real estate law, business and contract law. Her firm has earned an AV rating by Martindale-Hubbell signifying the highest level of personal excellence as obtained through opinions from members of the bar and judiciary.