When Disaster Strikes, Will Your Estate Be Ready?

12.31.18The swiftness of fires and flood in the news in recent months, even in places that have never experienced dramatic disasters, puts a spotlight on the need for preparedness. That includes your estate plan.

The evening news presents enough reminders about the need to plan for disasters. However, many people feel like it can’t happen to them, or they don’t know what to do. Forbes’s recent article, “How To Make Your Estate Plan Doomsday Ready,” looks at a couple in their 80s, who recently had their house in North Carolina destroyed by Hurricane Florence, and the picture of what has occurred should be a life lesson for all.

This couple depended on their adult children, who were all in other states, to help—but there were many obstacles. They didn’t have access to a computer and couldn’t remember account information or their passwords or even how to access their email. They asked their daughter to go online and pretend to be them, to begin accessing information. OK, that may not be legal, but desperate times can call for desperate measures.

Let’s look at how to prevent this from happening in your family. First, decide how you will store the data you’d need in an emergency. It could be using online cloud-based technology such as password vaults, online storage systems, or keeping passwords on a piece of paper in a purse or wallet. Many use fireproof strong boxes that can be reached immediately. All of these are good options, and whatever method you implement, here’s the information you need to secure.

  • Account numbers and passwords. Keep this information separate for security reasons.
  • Copies of legal documents. These are your will, trusts, powers of attorney, health care proxies, and HIPAA waivers. You should also have copies of deeds and titles to assets, such as cars and boats.
  • Contact info for advisors. This includes your estate planning attorney, CPA, financial advisor, and insurance agent.
  • Copies of insurance policies. You’ll need quick access to many of your insurance policies, like your homeowner’s and auto policies if you just lost everything in a natural disaster.
  • Tax returns. Include the previous year’s return, but it’s best to also have copies of the last three years of tax returns.
  • Medical information. Keep a full list of all prescriptions and contact info for your healthcare providers.

Think of all the steps you’d need to take to rebuild your life and all the information you’d need to accomplish this.

Check with your estate planning attorney to find out if they have copies of your legal documents and any financial account information, including tax returns. Even if they do, you should have a backup plan in place. If you have trusted friends or adult children who live in another town, you may want to provide them with key information. Consider this “doomsday” preparation, similar to preparing for your own passing. It will make life easier for you if you have to start from scratch, and easier for your family and loved ones, if it is needed because of your death.

Reference: Forbes (December 3, 2018) “How To Make Your Estate Plan Doomsday Ready”

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