By George Fox
As Dr. Seuss put it, “From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.” Or maybe not so funny. Travel abroad can be relaxing and luxurious, but it can also be dangerous. Even the most innocuous of issues can be exacerbated when you add a language barrier or different sets of customs and laws into the equation. Luckily, they have you to remind them to keep their eyes peeled. So here are a few important things for your clients to consider before they 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 clients should watch their steps.
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 your client current safety information, as well as a conduit to friends and family in an emergency.
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, your client doesn’t have to drag all the pages around. But it won’t add an iota to theirr luggage weight to have a piece of paper with their passport showing the emergency numbers of the countries they’re visiting.
What if I get Ill on a trip?
The American Express Platinum Card will pay treatment fees of up to $2.5 million(!). If your client is traveling alone, the company will pay up to $250 a night to have a relative come in to stay with them. And, if your client is discharged from the hospital but it’s doctor’s orders to stay around, Amex will pay for that, too.
MedJetAssist is another emergency service for travelers—with an interesting benefit. If your client has a medical emergency more than 150 miles from home, MedJetAssist will arrange for air transport back to the hospital of your client’s choice—not the nearest one, not one the company chooses, but the hospital your client chooses—and at no charge beyond what they paid for your membership.
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, your client has heard this message before, but it’s especially important if he or she dies or becomes disabled while out of town. Or out of the country. Encourage your clients to look at their wills (or get one if they don’t have one).
Another situation: your client is a stranger in a strange land and suddenly can’t write checks, access their accounts or otherwise manage their 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.
Legal First Aid
Your client has named people in his or her documents. So let 'em know. It shouldn’t be a total surprise when they get a call from wherever you are, and have no idea what title you appointed them to means (executor, attorney-in-fact, legal representative?), what they’re supposed to do, or where your client’s important papers (financial and otherwise) can be found.
A “Temporary Document” Thought
If all the people your client has named to make health care decisions are going with him, do new temporary ones. If a medical decision comes along that your client can’t make, then he or she would want someone consulting with the doctors who isn’t lying in a coma next to him or her.
One Nation, Indivisible Department
If done correctly under his or her home state’s law, your client’s 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 your client is relying on this document dinosaur, he or she could be stuck.
Don’t Leave Home Without ‘Em
If your client can’t communicate, how’s anyone going to find out about those health-related papers?
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 encourage your clients to carry a card behind their driver’s licenses showing who should be called if there’s an emergency. We created laminated cards for our clients, but you can certainly make your own.
George Fox is an Atlanta attorney with more than 30 years of experience. He’s a partner at Fox and Mattson, P.C. This is an adapted version of his original article.