The current pandemic is a stark reminder that unexpected disasters can happen quickly and we may have to react. That is why every family should prepare what we call an “Evacuation Box”. This box should include your financial and estate documents in the event you need to leave your home in a hurry.
Starting off, let’s talk about the actual box. We aren’t talking about an oversized safe in this case. Your evacuation box really should be portable and light enough for you to grab quickly as you run out of your house. It should also be durable, fireproof, and lockable. That way in case of a house fire and you are unable to grab it on your way out the door, the box will survive the fire and be in tact in case your home collapses over it.
What should you keep in your evacuation box?
First, you should keep cash or travelers checks in the box. You should have enough to live for an entire week from home. In the event of a natural disaster or world event, you can’t depend on ATMs to be fully functioning, so make sure you have some cash on hand. In saying that however, you should have an extra credit card in the box.
Next, you should have copies of all your insurance policies. That includes your homeowner’s policy, your car insurance, your medical insurance policy, life insurance policies, and disability insurance policy. The reason is because you need to have proof and assurance of what you’re covered for to cover all your bases. Also, you should have a contact list of the insurance agents and agencies that hold your policies to know who to talk to in case of an emergency.
Make sure you also include copies of all your legal documents, including wills, living wills and power of attorneys. Also, you need your marriage and birth certificates, as well as passports and social security cards included in the box to have them at the ready. It is suggested that you should hold onto your filed taxes for five years, but the three most recent years should be included in your Emergency Box.
You will also need to make sure you have documentation of your financial accounts. That includes the account numbers of your savings, checking, investment and retirement accounts. You need to be able to have access to your saved money in the event of a catastrophic event. You should also include the contact names and numbers of the banks and investment accounts along with your account numbers.
In case of a house fire, earthquake or any event where your house and possessions could be destroyed, it would be a good idea of a household inventory so you can get the most out of your insurance claim. You can do this by videotaping all the rooms of your house from top to bottom. That way you have documented the bulk of your belongings. You should also collect the receipts and appraisals of all your jewelry, heirlooms, antiques and artwork.
Some folks store their protected items they don’t need regular access to in a safety deposit box. If you have a safety deposit box, you should keep a spare key in the Emergency Box. That way you are still able to access your protected belongings if you had to quickly leave your home.
Finally, you should always keep a backup copy of your family pictures on a CD or external hard drive. The durable, fireproof box will protect your belongings as best as it can, so in case of an emergency you will be protected.
To hear the podcast of the Smart Money Management radio show on this topic, or others, go to our website at alderferbergen.com.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
Securities and financial planning offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC