A lifetime of preparation and planning can be wiped out in minutes by a sudden natural disaster like Hurricane Florence in North Carolina or the wildfires in Paradise, California. Now, estate planning must be a part of preparing for natural disasters to ensure that acts of nature do not destroy the ability to pass on assets or preserve long-term planning.
A natural disaster can wipe out important documents and block access to computers and electronic accounts. Many people cannot remember passwords or gain access to email accounts, especially during the stress associated with losing their homes and property or evacuating.
Assuring password access to accounts and electronic information is important. It is also essential to have plans for storing important legal documents, such as wills, powers of attorneys, health care directives and proxies and HIPAA confidentiality waivers. Accommodation should be made for important financial documents, such as copies of deeds and vehicle titles.
Selecting the best storage method is vital. Password vaults and online cloud-based technology is being used more. Another less technological method is to keep passwords on a piece of paper in a wallet or purse or in a fireproof strong box that can be taken during an evacuation.
However, there are serious drawbacks to keeping all this information together. If lost or stolen, an unscrupulous person can gain access and use important vital and personal information. Using one method results in the loss of all information if it is misplaced or stolen. Having multiple storage or access methods provides an extra level of protection.
Heirs and family members should also have contact information for lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, and insurance agents for life and property and casualty policies. These advisors hold important estate and financial documents and can help obtain additional information.
An attorney can help develop an estate plan that protects assets and assures long-term care. Experienced lawyers are also an important resource for providing up-to-date methods for safeguarding and providing access to important information and documents.