Prepare Your Documents for an Emergency

Physician's Money DigestFebruary28 2005
Volume 12
Issue 4

Imagine yourself under orders to evacuateyour home because of anapproaching forest fire, rising floodwaters,or a terrorism alert.

You have at most a few hours—maybeonly minutes—to cram everything preciousin your car. But what about financial andlegal documents? What would you needand how quickly could you collect them?

Certified Financial Planner™ professionalssuggest preparing in advance a financialemergency evacuation kit. Start withan evacuation box to put your financialdocuments in. It needs to be durable, lockable,and preferably fireproof, yet lightenough for you to carry to your vehicle.Have self-sealing plastic bags to protectdocuments. Keep the box in the housenear an emergency exit. The following is alist of important items to put into the box:

• Cash or traveler's checks. Keep atleast enough to last for a few days of livingaway from home. This is anothergood reason to have a money-marketemergency fund with several months'worth of bare bones living expenses, or acredit card with a zero balance.

• Insurance policies. You'll want theoriginals or copies of all of your insurancepolicies. Also include a contact listof insurance agents.

• Legal documents. Include your wills,living wills, powers of attorney, marriageand birth certificates, passports, militaryrecords, naturalization and adoptionpapers, and titles to your home and vehicles.Original legal documents should notbe where they can be difficult to reach.Consider keeping them with your attorney.

• Financial accounts. Have copies ofaccount numbers and contact numbers foryour investment and banking accounts.Copies of monthly statements often willhave all the information you need, but besure to keep them secure from theft. KeepSocial Security cards for all members of thefamily, including your children.

• Household inventory. One of thenational news broadcasts showed aLouisiana woman videotaping everythingshe was leaving behind in her home inthe event Hurricane Ivan destroyed herproperty, which was a smart idea. It is difficult to remember all of one's possessionsand know their value, let alone documentit to the insurance company.

Augment any visual record with precisewritten records. List each item, its value,and model and serial numbers where available.Keep receipts. You'll especially wantto have written, professional appraisals forvaluables such as jewelry and antiques.Copy documents showing major homeimprovements, and be sure your homeowner'sinsurance reflects their value.

Inventories are time consuming initially,but once done they're easy to update. Youcan use a computer program, or writeitems down in an inventory booklet.

This article has been produced by the Financial

Planning Association (, which is

the membership organization for the financial

planning community.

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