So You’re Going on a Trip…

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As Dr. Seuss put it, “From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.” Or maybe not so funny. So here are a few legal things to consider before you head into the Wild Blue Yonder.

The Strain in Bahrain is Mainly Very Plain. Traveling around the U.S. as a tourist is one thing. Overseas can be a legal minefield, so watch your step.

Want to know the latest about a country? The State Department’s website at Travel.State.Gov is a wealth of pertinent, current information.

Example: this is part of the tourist warnings on the page for Bahrain:

  • You can be arrested for public drunkenness and disorderly behavior.
  • Any sign of alcohol consumption may be taken as evidence of driving under the influence.
  • Using vulgar language or hand gestures can result in heavy fines or criminal charges.
  • It is illegal to photograph certain buildings in Bahrain.

The State Department also runs STEP, the “Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.” (

Sign up and each potential destination’s embassy will give you current safety information, as well as a conduit to friends and family in an emergency.

911 Abroad. We don’t often praise government websites, but here’s another jewel from the State Department a list of all 911 numbers – Ambulance, Fire, Police – in a bunch of different countries.

No, you don’t have to drag all the pages around. But it won’t add an iota to your luggage weight to have a piece of paper with your passport showing the emergency numbers of the countries you’re visiting

To see the whole list, Google “Emergencies 911 Abroad.”

What if I get ill on a trip? The American Express Platinum Card will pay treatment fees up to $2.5 million(!). If you’re traveling alone, they’ll pay up to $250 a night to have a relative come in to stay with you. And if you’re discharged from the hospital but it’s doctor’s orders to stay around, they’ll pay for that, too.

MedJetAssist is another emergency service for travelers, and with an interesting benefit. If you have a medical emergency more than 150 miles from home, they arrange for air transport back to the hospital of your choice – not the nearest one, not one they choose, but the hospital you choose — and at no charge beyond what you paid for your membership. That’s right: you don’t pay anything else.

There are a number of different membership fee levels and benefit choices. But for example, someone under age 74 can pay $99 for MedJetAssist coverage on an eight-day trip. You can get coverage for domestic travel for a year, at a cost of $185.

Get your life in order before you leave. Okay, you’ve heard the message before, but it’s especially important if you die or become disabled out-of-town. Or out of the country. Look at your Will (or get one if you don’t have one). A good one, a real one, one that reflects what you want, not a forced fill-in-the-blank download. (Hint: if the website says “We are not lawyers but . . .”, you don’t want their form.)

Another situation: you’re a stranger in a strange land and suddenly can’t write checks, access your accounts, or otherwise manage your financial affairs. Who you gonna call? Best: the person named on your Durable Power of Attorney or Living Trust. Far from best: not having either.

Today, not the day before you leave. A cartoon shows the husband and wife relaxing in their easy chairs, chatting. The caption: “Let’s go on vacation and do our wills.”

You can’t start dealing with this the day before your departure. It doesn’t work. There’s nothing to download. You can’t witness your own signature, and no beneficiary named in your Will can witness your signing, either.

And no, what you jot down on a legal pad and leave on the kitchen counter is not going to count as a Will.

In short: you can label a piece of paper “My Will” but it won’t. It’s just not worth waiting.

Legal First Aid. You’ve named people in your documents. So let ‘em know. Your appointing them shouldn’t be a total surprise when they get a call from wherever-you-are, and have no idea what the title (Executor? Attorney-in-fact? Legal Representative?) means, what they’re supposed to do and where your important papers (financial and otherwise) can be found.

Parents: Travel with Controlled Time Documents. Georgia has a statute making it easy for grandparents to be named guardians of minor children. It’s sort of a temporary custody for the limited time that parents might be away. Somebody should have it.

Another “Temporary Document” Thought. If all the people you named to make healthcare decisions are going with you, do new temporary ones. If a medical decision comes along that you can’t make, then you want someone consulting with the doctors who isn’t lying in a coma next to you.

The Georgia forms come with “Start Now, End Later” blanks, so it’s easy to go back to your “regular” Healthcare Directive when you return.

One Nation, Indivisible Department: If done correctly under your home state’s law, your legal documents should be accepted across the country. (There’s really no reason why they wouldn’t be.)

But caution: the old Living Wills generally do not name someone to announce what should be done medically. So if you’re relying on this document dinosaur, you could be stuck.

Don’t Leave Home Without ‘Em. If you can’t communicate, how’s anyone going to find out about those health-related papers?

So carry a paper set. (Having them accessible on a CD or flash drive presumes that in the middle of the desert, in the woods, or on top of a mountain, someone’s going to have a reader around. Bad idea.)

Or carry a card behind your driver’s license showing who should be called if there’s an emergency. We invented laminated cards for our clients, but you can certainly make your own.