Legal Documents to Have Available in Case of Emergency - Wylkan Estate Planning & Certified Elder Law
 

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Legal Documents to Have Available in Case of Emergency

June 01, 2021

When an emergency arises, you want to be alert and emotionally available to take care of yourself and your loved ones. Searching frantically for essential information wastes valuable time and uses up mental energy you need to preserve for the urgent matter at hand. By keeping important documents easily accessible, you can keep yourself free from worrying about data and details during a challenging time. 

Identify Them

There are 4 categories of information you should have organized for quick, future access:

  1. Vital Records

    • copies of birth certificates / adoption records for each family member
    • copies of marriage licenses, drivers licenses, and passports for each
    • copies of all property and auto records – deeds, leases, titles, etc.
    • copies of all property / umbrella insurance policies
    • document locator (tells where originals / off-site paperwork are stored)

  2. Financial Information

    • list of all bank account numbers
    • copies of the front and back of each credit card
    • list of all investment account numbers
    • list of all retirement / pension account numbers
    • detailed information about any current income / benefits
    • detailed information about any outstanding mortgages / loans

  3. Medical Information

    • copies of health / life / disability insurance cards and policies
    • medical history for each family member
    • list of medications and prescriptions, including dose and pharmacy
    • details about any ongoing medical conditions and treatments

  4. Contacts

    • friends and family to reach in case of emergency
    • neighbors who have access to your house
    • financial institutions, insurance companies, and legal advisors
    • physicians, specialists, hospitals, and other healthcare providers
    • employers and benefits administrator

Find Them 

While having these items is a huge step in the right direction, if they are unorganized or scattered throughout the house, they will not serve you or your family at the moment this information is needed most. Set aside a time—either an afternoon, weekend, or longer, depending on the state of your files—to gather and check off the items on the list above. Put on your favorite tunes, make a pot of coffee (or two), and set your mind to the task. One day, you or your loved ones will breathe a sigh of relief and realize this was time well spent. 

Organize Them

Once you get all your documents together, create an organizational system to make them easy to find. A simple binder divided with the sections mentioned above may be all you need. You may also want to scan your documents in order to have digital copies on hand as well, a good idea in case of fire or flood. Whatever system you use, make sure it makes sense to loved ones who may have to access the information as well. Consider creating a master “map” for the rest of the documents that explains where they are located, whom to contact, and any passwords for online accounts. Of course, you will have to carefully consider who has access to your files, or at the very least, the master document.

Next Steps

Identifying, locating, and organizing your documents is key to giving you and your loved ones peace of mind should an emergency sneak up. You will be prepared with the vital information you need. Feeling overwhelmed about setting up your emergency plan or making other plans for the future? Wylkan Estate Planning can help! Contact us to set up an appointment today. 

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