Just-in-time for your upcoming travels (or for parents and friends) here is a SNOWBIRD CHECKLIST to keep your travel plans safe and protect your home during the time away. You wouldn't want to be like Fred and Mary (or their kids!) where the lack of this planning put them down more than $4 Million! In a moment I'll share some of their story with you ... but first now I encourage you, please share this page freely with people YOU care about, because you never know whom this may help most!
SNOWBIRD TRAVEL CHECKLIST
This is vital for upcoming travels or if you have “snowbird” travellers among your friends and family. We all make lists and check them twice before travelling distances or for extended periods. You can adapt and share this list to ensure you and dear ones can be safe in such upcoming journeys. I hope you’ll let me know, too, if you spot something we can add to this list. 🙂
- Substantial Presence Test. This could help you avoid a U.S. tax burden. It considers how long you’ve been in the U.S. over the past three years. If we’re there more than 182 days over a three-year period the U.S. Internal Revenue Service takes a look to determine if they want to elect you as a U.S. tax resident. Generally that’s an election no snowbird wants to win! Did you know: the IRS counts even two-hour stints for shopping or a show, as a full day? Have you dropped someone over to the Buffalo airport? All visits are counted, so you want to have clear records to help avoid the long arm of the IRS.
- Health coverage can be a very costly omission and I’ve known people who purposely and knowingly went south without health coverage. Something that puts you in a U.S. hospital can easily cost $60,000 to $600,000 or more … likely exceeding your chequing account balance and available cash. Even if you’re insured, be certain you are “medically stable” to travel or that the insurer has specifically qualified you in your current condition: this means if you have any health-related questions you confirm everything with the insurer before travelling. Be sure too that in event of death, the plan will pay for a family member’s costs, and also repatriation of the deceased body. Track dates of departure and return too, for insurers won’t pay for any period that exceeds the maximum # of days (or emergency medical days) stated in your policy. However if there’s a storm that forces your flight home to be canceled some insurers may extend your coverage briefly until you’re on home soil.
- Reduce currency transaction fees if your Canadian bank is connected to a U.S.-based affiliate where you’re traveling. For short travels ATMs are very convenient but snowbirds heading south for 3-6 months may appreciate a U.S.-based chequing account. Arrange this with your bank before traveling (if needed, RBC and TD are well noted for US-based account services).
- Take pictures (on your phone because you generally have it close by) of driver’s licenses, passports, birth certificates, prescriptions and doctors, health and other insurances … and email these to yourself and to a trusted friend so they remain easily accessible in event of theft or other emergencies. Think of who can help you when it becomes necessary to prove health coverage or get help due to trip cancelations, death or other circumstances. When Virginia and I are away, we usually have my sister and our oldest daughter as trusted “back-ups” with these kinds of information.
- Who will be watching your home? Have you checked your home insurance as to how long you can be absent without your home coverage lapsing? If your home is unoccupied, you may be responsible for damages and repairs that could have been reduced by a friend popping in every day or so.
- Suspending services like newspapers, having your mail held or re-routed, and perhaps even suspending phone/internet services can save money and help keep debris from gathering around your front door. We don’t want passers-by to realize a house is being left empty.
- Expiring lease, rental, or utility contracts may also need attention before you go. Check your files or your mail to consider what needs attention.
- Car insurance needs a moment too before crossing the border. Hopefully you’ve integrated your home & car insurances to provide at least $2Million, preferably $5Million umbrella coverage in case you are deemed responsible for causing injuries or death. Not only are claims typically higher in the U.S. but they are also payable in U.S.$ so if you’ve got $2M liability coverage in Canada that’s a paltry $1½M US. Some car insurances require formal notice of when you’ll be driving outside Canada, so it’s prudent to call and let them know such details before you travel.
Why is a SNOWBIRD check-list important to us? It’s peace-of-mind: yours, mine, and potentially even for our estate and heirs! Consider what it could cost when a person fails to confirm things before travelling. While Fictional Fred and Mythical Mary were in the U.S. for three months Fred had a stroke while driving and this caused a pile-up on the interstate which required Mary to be in hospital for 4 days and Fred for 28 days. During that time a bathroom pipe at home leaked and caused extensive damage on three floors of their house. Total costs were estimated to be over $4 Million liability in the accident, near $2 Million for hospital costs, and $95,000 home repairs after they returned home. A check-list can help against so many levels of unexpected grief.
What’s your next step? Is this for your own travels or for someone close to you? Snowbird or not, let's talk together. Reach me directly if we can be of help.
Yours in Financial Security for LIFE!
Brian Weatherdon, Certified Coaching in Wealth and Retirement.
905-637-3500 x 223. 1-877-937-3500 x 223. Brian@SovereignWealth.ca
Brian's books available locally and also from Amazon:
- A Lifetime of Wealth - And How Not To Lose It. (2013)
- Protecting Life, Loved Ones, and Future Dreams. (2013)
- Your Business, Your Retirement -- Halton Retirement Study. (2015)
** This monthly letter touches on key strategies in Canadian and global investing and financial planning. This letter is not an offer to sell any kind of security, insurance, or program. Historical returns and risk measures are not a valid guide to future performance. Returns are from publicly available sources and research from a variety of firms including but not limited to GLC, RBC, CIBC, Mackenzie, Franklin Templeton. Opinions reflected in this letter belong solely to the author and no other body is responsible for the content expressed here. We value opportunity to consult alongside your legal and accounting firms to advance your financial security and unique goals. We are grateful always to receive your comments and questions.