Safeguard Your Important Documents From Disasters

No One is immune from natural disasters.  Whether you live in an earthquake zone, hurricane area, or Tornado Alley, you should be prepared to deal with the challenge of protecting important paperwork.  What would that include?  The article below from AARP helps cover your bases…

Avoid the paper chaseYou may have mere minutes to evacuate, and that’s no time to be running around looking for must-have paperwork. So before disaster strikes, collect and copy it.

• Protecting Assets: Keep one set of original or photocopied records in a portable file system or lock box that will allow grab-and-go convenience if you evacuate. Make a backup set of electronic copies and save them on CDs, DVDs, or external drives that should be stored in another safe location, such as a bank safe deposit box or the distant home of a trusted friend or relative. If you have a remote backup service, you can keep the copies there as well. Going forward, be sure to keep records updated. The documents should include:

 Personal: Birth and marriage certificates, divorce decrees, passports, diplomas, military documents, Social Security card, and photocopies of your driver’s license and the front and back of all credit cards. Also, include phone numbers of friends and relatives because numbers stored on your cellphone may be inaccessible if its battery dies and you can’t recharge.

 Home and property: Home deed, mortgage, and closing statements; car titles; insurance policies or, at the minimum, policy number and contact information for your agent and insurer; appraisal documents for jewelry and other valuables.

• Estate: Your will, executor, and estate planning paperwork, including names and phone numbers.

 Medical: Medicare or health insurance cards, prescription records (especially for medications for chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma), and contact information for your doctors.

• Financial: Stock and bond certificates; IRA or 401(k) account numbers; bank statements; and tax records, including W2s and important receipts.

• Prove your possessions to minimize possible insurance claim hassles, and take and safeguard photographs or video of the contents of each room — including the garage — as proof that you own possessions that might be lost or damaged. “An advantage of videotaping possessions is you can narrate, such as ‘I bought this table at this store, at this time, it’s this brand and cost me this much,'” suggests Jeanne Salvatore of the Insurance Information Institute. The Insurance Information Institute website has free online software called Know Your Stuff to help you conduct a home inventory. It can be accessed from any computer or via an app for iPhone and Android phones. You may also want to use the Internal Revenue Service’s “Casualty, Disaster and Theft Loss Workbook” (PDF) for estimated fair market value figures of your items lost. 

• Read it before you need it: The biggest mistake made by disaster-devastated homeowners? “Not knowing beforehand what their policies cover — and don’t,” says Salvatore. So each year, review your homeowner’s policy and ask questions. With replacement cost policies, you’re covered for today’s cost of replacing damaged possessions. Cash value policies cover items at their depreciated value, which means your reimbursement check will be lower. And while tornado and fire damage is covered by most homeowner policies, supplemental insurance is needed for earthquakes and floods. (Gauge the flood risk and policy cost for your address at coverage activates 30 days after your purchase date.

How to make sure your valuables survive the storm

by: Sid Kirchheimer, from AARP, Updated August 2013

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