The Worst-Case Scenario: How to Disaster-Proof Your Documents

Throughout most of modern history, preparing for worst-case scenarios has been seen as a negative thing. We often think of people who make preparations as worrywarts who have gone to extreme measures to make themselves sleep better at night. Then, last year there came a time where suddenly no one could buy toilet paper or eggs and the only people who had any were those who had planned in advance. Then we all realized we could do a better job of protecting ourselves against the worst-case scenario.

Most disasters, of course, are not a worldwide health pandemic. Natural disasters like fires and flooding are much more common, as are hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis. In these cases, it is important to protect the most essential things in your life. This starts with your family and friends in danger, obviously, and then extends to your most essential documents. Even if you may not realize it, essential documents are more important than your wallet, car, or big-screen TV.

This isn’t just advice from someone with a bunker in their backyard. FEMA themselves, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, recommends that everyone disaster-proofs their essential documents. They categorize essential documents as identification documents, medical information, financial and legal documents, insurance information, and contact information for trusted people in your life. All of these are essential to rebuilding your life in the event of an emergency. They can be replaced, but that process is expensive and time-consuming.

FEMA recommends physical and digital storage of these documents. The most common way to physically store your essential documents is inside of a safe. It is likely you may already have done this. Make sure that your safe is waterproof, fireproof, and lockable. This can also prevent crimes such as robberies and identity theft. Some people make physical copies of their essential documents and send them to friends in other states to keep in their safes. It is also possible to purchase a lockbox in another city, which may help you if a natural disaster affects your city.

Digital storage is supplemental to your physical storage, rather than fully replacing it. Some people have digital copies of their documents backed up to portable hard drives or USB drives. These are helpful but also physical, so they can succumb to the same issues as physical documents. Storing your digital copies in an account online can allow you to access them from anywhere with an internet connection. There are plenty of cloud-based and account-based services available to store your documents.

When we think about disasters, we tend to think about the drama – buildings crumbling and heroes running into burning buildings to save others. We don’t always think about what it would be like to try and withdraw money from a bank account without any proof of identity to your name. We should be preparing for both. For help caring for your future, contact Solan, Park & Robello today. The time to take charge is today!

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Solan, Park & Robello

Solan, Park & Robello is a full-service probate and estate planning firm offering experienced counsel in a wide range of estate planning matters—from preparation to administration to litigation.

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