The recent horrific firestorms suffered by our neighbors in nearby Paradise and the fires in the Wine Country not long ago have touched us all. To help them with their recovery, there are several organizations providing much needed assistance. They can all use our helping hand. See our Charity list in this newsletter for more information.
Natural disasters are part of life, from hurricanes and floods to earthquakes and tornadoes. For us Northern Californians, the forecast is for more frequent and more severe fires in the years ahead.
Part of preparing for a disaster is an emergency evacuation kit which should include emergency food and water, clothing, sleeping items, as well as medications, pet carriers and pet food. They should be checked and updated regularly.
An often overlooked part of disaster preparation is locating and safeguarding important papers, including estate planning documents. We have long advised our clients to store their original documents in either a fire proof home safe or safe deposit box at a bank or credit union. Documents to safeguard, in addition to planning documents, include insurance policies, medical records, vital records, e.g. birth certificates, recent tax records and financial records.
The most common problem we experience with our clients concerning their original estate planning documents is that they are simply become lost. When you are unable to produce original documents to a third party, e.g., a bank, brokerage or title company, it may delay or prevent important transactions or require costly court intervention.
As the recent fires show, however, fast moving fires can level a home in a short period of time due to their intense heat. For this reason, we recommend home safes that have a long burn time, e.g., 60 minutes or more. Better yet, keep an empty box near the safe so that you can quickly fill it and take the contents with you if you must evacuate.
If you are tech-savvy, you may want to scan your important documents and store the digital copies in a secure “cloud” based storage system that you can access from any computer.
It also is important to remember that fire proof safes will not likely protect media that is not paper. Some folks save documents, movies, music and photos on CDs and DVDs. It is unlikely that these plastic based media will survive the heat of a firestorm even inside a fireproof safe.
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