3 Lessons I Learned From my Career as a Flight Attendant That I Use in Estate Planning

3 Lessons About Air Travel That Apply to Estate Planning
3 Lessons About Air Travel That Apply to Estate Planning

When I look back at my years as a flight attendant, I am amazed at the life lessons that I learned by crossing paths with so many people. However, The various passengers that I came into contact with was just one part of the story.

I also learned that patience, flexibility and calmness are useful virtues to have when dealing with air travel.

In addition to the passengers that I assisted, I also dealt with the many challenges of aviation. In particular, delays, diversions, cancelled flights and other aggravations. If you have traveled by air, it is very likely that you can identify with some of the chaos in the skies.

Lesson #1. Be ready to change travel plans

The weather, mechanical issues, runway congestion, air traffic control delays and catering problems can create issues for timely departures. Misconnections and cancelled flights can unnerve the most seasoned traveler. Bring your patience and flexibility to the airport with you, because constant change in air travel is a given.

Be ready to change your estate plan:

A. Realize that estate plans may need to change from time to time. Life evolves and things are always changing around us.

B. Marriages happen, babies are born, loved ones die, divorces occur, assets grow, homes are sold, retirement accounts fluctuate and other changes take place.

Lesson #2. Have a flight plan for every departure

Where is the final destination? Whether the flight is cross country, over the Atlantic or a short hop within the state, a flight plan is critical. Altitude, route of flight, estimated time of arrival, how much fuel is on board, passenger count, alternate landing locations in case of bad weather and other flight details are part of the flight plan.

Have an estate plan that is based on your unique circumstances:

A. Address all the issues that are important in your life in your estate plan. Create a plan that takes into consideration your wishes and desires for your family, favorite charities and the distribution of your assets.

B. How much life insurance do you have? Who are the beneficiaries of your insurance policies, bank accounts and retirement accounts? Have you considered what the needs of your children are? If they are minors, who will be their guardian? Do they all have the same career accomplishments or  does one child have special needs requiring ongoing care?

Lesson #3. Plan for crazy weather when traveling by air

Snow, ice, rain, wind, blizzards, hurricanes and tornadoes are all conditions that can disrupt your travel plans in a hurry. For the most part, airports and airlines do a good job of trying to notify passengers of possible closures and delays related to weather.

In the case of hurricanes and snow events, planning for travel disruptions can take place days in advance. However, many storms and weather phenomenons can pop up suddenly creating havoc for air travelers.

Plan for family drama when creating an estate plan:

A. Think about all the possible scenarios for your family and loved ones. Are you in a second marriage with step children? Do you get along with all of your children’s spouses? Does a family member have a substance abuse problem? To properly address your wishes and desires planning for such situations is critical.

B. Would you want your 18 year old son  or daughter to get an outright inheritance? Would you like your children’s inheritance to be managed through a trust with distributions when they turn 25, 30 or 35? No one knows your family better than you. What are your concerns?

Seek professional help when preparing your estate plan to determine what documents are needed based on your wishes and circumstances. No estate plan is one size fits all.

Remember the 3 lessons that I learned and safe travels to you!

The original article was revised on 8/19/16 – for National Aviation Day.

Aquanetta J. Betts, is an attorney licensed in Washington, DC and Maryland. She focuses her practice on wills, trusts, and estates.

Prior to opening her law firm, Aquanetta spent 15 years as a flight attendant for American Airlines. Visit – www.abettslaw.com for more information or connect on Twitter @AquanettaBetts.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice.


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