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Remote Digital Nomads & Estate Planning - What You Need to Know

Estate planning can be a challenge for digital nomads. Learn how to create an estate plan that works for your lifestyle with this guide.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

Are you interested in joining the digital nomad movement? There are currently over 15 million digital nomads in the U.S. alone, a number that may increase along with the continued popularity of flexible remote and freelance jobs. If you do decide to take your job (and life) on-the-go, be sure to have your affairs in order. In this guide, we teach you how to create your Estate Plan that will work with your chosen lifestyle.

What is a digital nomad?

A digital nomad is a worker who leverages technology so that they can be location-independent. They use the internet to work remotely and to stay connected to their jobs, co-workers, and clients. Digital nomads can be employees, self-employed individuals, or freelancers. They might choose to travel domestically within the U.S. or overseas, and they often work in coworking spaces, coffee shops, and other public locations that provide internet access.

How do you become a digital nomad?

Although there is no single method of becoming a digital nomad, the first thing you’ll want to do is take a look at your finances. Set a monthly budget based on the type of nomadic lifestyle you desire. Go over your finances and see where you can cut out unnecessary expenses. 

When you live life on the go, there will be certain expenses you’ll no longer need, such as permanent housing, gym memberships, or subscriptions. You may be surprised to find out that your budget is much smaller than anticipated when you cut out most material possessions and creature comforts.

Based on your new monthly budget, determine the income you need to bring in. This might even help determine the type of job you need, if you don’t already have one. Many digital nomads are highly skilled workers with traditional, full-time jobs. In this case, your salary will be consistent and dependable. If you plan to freelance or create income in less traditional ways, be sure to create a financial safety net to cover your expenses when you don’t have a consistent paycheck.

Aside from career and finances, you also need to determine your method of travel and lodging. The majority of domestic digital nomads travel and dwell in a vehicle, such as a van or camper truck that includes a place to sleep and oftentimes a kitchenette. Others may travel using their car or public transportation and find accommodations in the locale of their choosing.

Last but not least, be sure to protect yourself by purchasing a travel health insurance policy. While traveling for the better part of the year will bring you many joyous experiences, it’s important to plan for the moments that don’t go your way. You may get sick, experience accidents or emergencies, or need access to general healthcare for checkups and medication. If you plan to travel internationally, you’ll need immunizations to visit certain corners of the world. Be sure to find a health insurance plan that will cover you wherever you may go. 

Another great way to protect yourself is to put your Estate Plan in place. Getting your affairs in order should be at the top of your priority list in case anything should happen to you on the road. Already on the road? Don’t worry. In the next section we’ll show you how you can create your Estate Plan from the road. 

Remote estate planning for digital nomads

As a digital nomad, you’ll want to consider how to get your affairs in order. Estate planning can be unique for someone like you, since you might not have an official state of residence (a domicile) or many physical assets to consider. 

However, you should still have an Estate Plan. This is because you likely still have assets and personal belongings to pass down to loved ones should anything happen to you, and you can make your wishes known by starting a Will or Trust

Further, contrary to popular belief, estate plans don’t only address what happens when a person passes away. They can also protect you if something unexpected happens, such as if you fall seriously ill or get stranded in a foreign country. 

Estate planning documents you must have as a digital nomad

An Estate Plan is a collection of legal tools and documents that are customized to each person’s unique needs and objectives. This means that your Estate Plan may not look the same when compared to that of a friend or neighbor. With that said, here are the top 3 estate planning documents that a digital nomad should have at minimum.

1. Will

A Will can best be explained as the cornerstone of estate planning. Whatever your Estate Plan might shape up to look like, it should always begin with your Will as the foundational document. It is a legal document that expresses your final wishes, as well as what should happen to your assets and property when you pass away, and how you wish for them to be distributed. Learn more about what is a Will.

Be aware that rules and regulations regarding Wills vary from state to state, including the rules on what makes a Will valid. As a digital nomad, it’s strongly recommended that you establish a domiciliary state to maintain a legal address. With domiciliary status, you’re able to do important things such as register to vote, pay your taxes, and get your driver’s license. It may make the most sense to create your Will such that it will be valid in your domiciliary state, as well as the state in which any physical property is titled and registered.

2. Health Care Proxy

An Estate Plan is also capable of protecting you regarding your health care. 

If you were to become seriously ill, or get into an accident that renders you unconscious, a Health Care Proxy will prove itself vital. A Health Care Proxy is an agent of your choosing who is authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become medically incapacitated. Based on your wishes, they can choose or refuse medical treatments, interventions, and medications. 

You can appoint your Health Care Proxy in the Medical Power of Attorney portion of your Advance Healthcare Directive, which is the document used to lay out your future health care decisions and wishes.

3. Power of Attorney

Digital nomads are constantly on the move, and there may come a time when you need someone to step in to handle your affairs on your behalf. What if you’re on an international trip and get stranded? A Power of Attorney is the answer.

Similar to your Health Care Proxy, a Power of Attorney (POA) is an agent of your choice who is authorized to step in and handle your affairs if needed. Your Health Care agent will take care of your medical and health care decisions, while your POA can handle your personal and business affairs. 

Create your Will with Trust & Will today

Living as a digital nomad requires some creative problem-solving, since you won’t always fit neatly into the box assigned to you by society. However, with a little bit of extra planning and effort, you’ll likely obtain some great rewards!

The same philosophy can be applied when getting your affairs in order. Because you’re constantly on the go, an Estate Plan can help provide you with the extra peace of mind knowing that you and your loved ones are protected should anything happen. When crafting your Estate Plan, be sure to take advantage of the tools that will best protect you, in the context of the unique lifestyle you lead. This guide provided several suggestions on what digital nomads should include in their Estate Plan.

If you’re wondering how to create an Estate Plan from the road, you’re in luck! At Trust & Will, we’re here to help keep things simple. You can create a fully customizable, state-specific estate plan from the comfort of your own home in just 20 minutes. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning and settlement  options today!

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Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.