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Financial Hurricane Preparedness | By: David Birdsong

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Financial Hurricane Preparedness 

As we get deeper into hurricane season it is important to be prepared. That preparation should include: 

An emergency kit. The emergency kit should include first aid supplies, a flashlight, extra batteries, at least three days of non-perishable foods and water, towels and a supply of any necessary medications.

Develop a family communications plan. Know how you will contact one another; how you will get back together, if separated; and what you will do in different situations.

Secure your home. Outdoor furniture and other objects can pose a potential hazard. Turn off propane tanks and other utilities if instructed to do so by emergency personnel.

There are other steps you should take with regards to being prepared in case something were to happen to home or you end up being away from home for an extended period of time.   Here are some of the documents you should have with you or should have scanned and stored on a password protected portable disk drive or in the cloud someway that is password protected:

Personal identification.  This would include driver’s licenses, birth certificates, military IDs, passports, etc.

Financial account information.   This would include the institution’s name and contact information, your account information, if you have a particular person you work with their name and contact information.   This would apply to checking accounts, savings accounts, retirement accounts and investment accounts.  If you have online access to these accounts your user name and password should be maintained somewhere secure.    You should also have the information on any credit and/or debit cards.

Insurance policies.     This would include homeowners insurance, auto insurance, renters insurance, along with appraisals and lists and photos of valuable items.  If you have not done so, before you leave you should use your phone and take pictures of both the outside and inside of your home.   This can help with claims regarding the condition of the property prior to the storm.  It can also help with regards to any personal property claims, to establish what you did have that was damaged.  If it is a major event that has caused substantial damage it is sometime hard to remember everything in the property that was lost.

Health and medical insurance documentation.  This would include your medical insurance but also a list of all of the medications you and your family are taking.  Have the name of the pharmacy where these were filled is also a good resource if you are far away from home and your doctors and need to the prescriptions filled.   The name and contact numbers of physicians seen regularly is also helpful.

Ownership or leasing documentation for homes and vehicles.  For real estate this would include deeds and also information regarding any mortgages against the property.  After Hurricane Katrina many people had trouble making insurance claims because they didn’t have the paperwork showing they were the owners of the property.    While these are generally available from the courthouse, in New Orleans the mortgage and conveyance records were seriously damaged and it was closed for several months, during which time homeowners did not have access to the records.

If you rent a copy of your lease to know what it says regarding your obligations should the property be damaged.  For vehicles and boats, you will need the titles and registrations. 

Other important legal documents.    Wills, Living Wills, Powers of Attorney and Trust documents should be accessible.  For certain actions you may be required to have the original of these documents but having a copy can also be very helpful.  If the original is lost but you can identify and locate the Notary Public on the document they may be able to certify a copy which will serve in place of the original in many circumstances.

There are several options as to how you are going to maintain these documents.   You can keep them in a safety deposit box but if you are stuck out of town you could have problems accessing it.  Also, as we saw in Katrina, several bank were also flooded and documents in safety deposit boxes damaged or lost.    You could store these documents in a water proof container, and keep it in your house in an area that is not likely to flood or take it with you when you evacuate. 

You could also scan or take pictures of the documents and keep them on a portable storage device such as a thumb drive, or store them in the cloud with a service such as Carbonite.   If you choose either of these options be sure they are password protected. 

If you have questions regarding real estate closings, successions, corporate formation, wills, trusts or powers of attorney, you can contact David W. Birdsong, Attorney at Law, with Gulf South Title Corp., 504-780-9202;

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