There’s been a lot of news of disasters this year, like the California wildfires, Florida hurricanes and devastating flooding in the Carolinas. It’s difficult to imagine how someone can lose everything in a moment. However, it really could happen to any of us, at any time. As a result, we all should have a plan for how to access important information, if we are suddenly forced out of our home and need to rebuild a life.
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. They depended on their adult children who were all in other states to help—but there were many obstacles. The couple didn’t have access to a computer and couldn’t remember their 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. Your estate planning attorney will often have copies of your legal documents and information on your financial accounts and taxes, but you should also have a backup plan. Keep this information, so it’s readily available to your family to access in the event of your death. The same is true for doomsday prepping. Make sure that important information can be easily found (by you and your loved ones), if you need it to rebuild your life.
Reference: Forbes (December 3, 2018) “How To Make Your Estate Plan Doomsday Ready”