What if Disaster Strikes?

It’s been unusual weather so far this summer in Colorado. During the ten years that I’ve lived in my little town for ten years and we’ve never had any natural disaster even tease us. However our town board decided this past winter to invest in emergency sirens. Sure enough we’ve had a real need to use them already. There wasn’t much controversy over the emergency system purchase, except I wonder what took so long?

What about you, are you prepared for an emergency? Of course you should have an emergency fund; I’m not really talking about that today. But, what about an emergency plan? If something happened to you or your home, what would happen to your finances?

You probably heard about the woman who went searching the dumpsters to reclaim her mother’s emergency system. The mother’s backup plan in case of financial emergency was a mattress. The problem was the mother never told anyone, so it was mistakenly thrown away.

Okay, so you might have a will, maybe even a living will, but how many people know where it is and how to access it?

What about other important documents such as birth certificates, banking information, etc? Again, where are they and who knows about them?

When thinking about your personal disaster plan think like a business. Smart businesses know that redundancy is essential to successful disaster planning. For yourself consider having a master document or book that lists everything and is stored in your home, plus a duplicate stored in a separate secure location, such as a safe deposit box.

Your master document should:

  1. Tell a reader where to find your important document,
  2. Include account information such as numbers and passwords, and
  3. List all important contacts such as lawyers, accountants, etc.

The duplicate of your master document should, ideally, be stored separately from other items. Keeping it stored in your safe deposit box along with your financial documents isn’t a good idea since it won’t help someone who doesn’t know that you have a safe deposit box. You’ll want to keep the copy either filed with a lawyer or someone else that you trust.

No one ever likes to talk about death and disaster, but you never know when something might hit. If you have an emergency plan, even if you never have to use it, it will give you great peace of mind. In addition, having this system in place will help you organize all those tedious bits of information.

Two last tips:

  1. Make it a habit to update all copies of the master document annually. You are sure to add or subtract documents, or change account numbers and passwords.
  2. If your document is digital be sure to upgrade technology as the years pass.

A short list of items for your master document (just list where they are located):

birth certificates
adoption papers
custody agreements
divorce agreements
military papers
lease documentation
passports
real estate deeds
pre-nupital agreements
marriage licenses
wills
trusts
living wills
contracts
powers of attorney documents
other contracts
insurance policies

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