While it is human nature to hope that the surprises in life will all be good, bad things do happen. When they do occur, being prepared can make all the difference between a stressful situation and a really awful situation that could have been made, well, less awful.
For starters, have you met with an estate planning attorney to create a comprehensive estate plan that includes a last will and testament, a financial power of attorney, and a health care power of attorney? The will concerns distribution of your possessions and property, the power of attorney gives a trusted person the ability to take financial and legal actions on your behalf in the event that you become incapacitated, and the medical power of attorney allows someone to make health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated. There are also many other tools that an estate planning attorney can help you with, such as a Special Needs Trust if your family includes a family member with special needs, or other trusts if they are needed.
Next, your emergency preparations should include having important documents assembled in a notebook, on a memory stick, and/or a safe location. Imagine if there was an emergency evacuation and you had to leave your home immediately. What documents would you need? Here’s a checklist:
- Contact information for family members, doctors, attorneys, dentists, insurance brokers, and financial advisors.
- Cash, so if ATMs are not working, you will have cash on hand.
- Identification documents, including originals of your birth certificate, marriage license, divorce papers, passport, Social Security card, health insurance cards (or Medicare or Medicaid cards).
- A video of your home and all of your possessions on your mobile phone. Consider emailing it to a family member or friend who lives in a different location.
- Information about home, auto, disability, long-term care, etc. insurance policies. Include contact information for either 800-numbers or your local agent in case you need to file a claim.
- A copy of recent financial statements for credit cards, banks, brokerage firms, retirement accounts, car loans, mortgages, and similar types of accounts.
- Copies of the last three years of tax returns. If you work with a CPA, they should have them on a secure portal, but a hard copy will be useful to have.
- Legal documents for your estate plan, including the will, power of attorney, and health care power of attorney as described above.
- Other legal documents, including car registration, car title, and property deed to your home.
These documents should all be organized in a folder that is placed in your home where you and your spouse know where it is and can grab it on your way out the door.
One more item that should be noted in this digital age: if you use a laptop or tablet that contains websites that you use frequently for personal finance, investments, etc., be mindful of its location in the house so that you can grab it and a charger cable quickly. If you have passwords for accounts—and most of us do—you should print them out and include them in your file folder for easy access. You can almost always re-set a password, but how much easier will rebuilding your life be if you have them on hand?
Reference: The Dalles Chronicle (July 16, 2019) “Prepare now for emergencies”