Legal Documents To Take When You Travel

As the temperatures begin to drop and the leaves start to change, the following question starts to come up more and more during my estate planning meetings:  What legal documents should I take with me when I am traveling? Not only do our snowbirds need to think about taking legal documents with them to the warmer climates where they spend their winters, but even those just traveling for a cold weather get away should consider this also.

When you complete your estate planning, your attorney usually has put together a power of attorney form, health care directive form and either a Will or a Trust.  Your Will or Trust can stay home in a safe location where your executor can find it if needed. It is however, often useful to have a copy of your power of attorney form and health care directive form with you as you travel.

A power of attorney form is a document that gives you the ability to name a trusted individual to access your financial accounts and step into your shoes to manage your assets when you are unable or unavailable.  Sometimes a power of attorney form can even be required between spouses.

The health care directive is a document where you give someone the authority to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable.  Health care directives used to have several different names: living will, health care declarations, durable power of attorney for health care, medical power of attorney or other written advance health care directives.  Minnesota has rolled all those terms into one form (i.e. health care directive). It is easy to imagine you can have a scenario when you are traveling where you get sick or are injured and either one of these documents could be very important to access quickly.

If you are a parent of minor children and you are getting away for a much needed break leaving your kids at home with someone, it is often a good idea to complete a form to authorize the child’s caretaker  to seek medical treatment for that child while you are out of town if they needed. The form can just be temporary and cover the timeframe that you are on vacation or out of town. The form should also contain the insurance information that may be required by the medical personnel to treat your child.

These are the key forms that you should consider taking a copy of when you travel.  Put them in the bag with your passport, plane ticket and hotel reservations and relax knowing you are covered!  In general, these forms are valid in others states, as long as they were validly executed in the state where it was made.

Please send me an email at with any topic suggestions or requests you may have.  Although we cannot give you legal advice through the column, we can provide some general information that may be helpful for you to know.  Our purpose is to educate and we hope that you can take something new away from this column each time you read it.