Develop an “In Case of Emergency” Plan & Document

IMG_0097Yesterday a very nice house in our gated community was struck by lightning and exploded into flames. Fortunately the owners of the house were out of town when the lightning struck and there were no injuries. The house was totally destroyed. See the video here.

Standing there watching the firemen and the shocked neighbors I couldn’t help but wonder how protected my family would be if this had happened to our house and I was no longer around to handle all of our needs.

My New Year’s resolution this year was to fine tune our “In Case of Emergency” plan and update all of our documents. I’ll share this with you and you are welcome to download it and make the changes necessary to fit your needs.

Most Important Issues:

  1. Do you have an updated Revocable Living Trust?
  2. If not at least an updated Will. (See these issues with Wills. Also see issues with Widow taxes)
  3. Make a written 3 year financial, income, tax and expenses plan the includes the loss of income from any spouse and the effects on the family.

The “In Case of Emergency” document is a complete explanation of everything someone (like my wife, family or executor of my estate) would ever need to know about everything in my/our lives. It also includes immediate specific steps to take in case something happens to me or “us”. Keep in mind that the emergency may not be your death, but may be you becoming incapacitated, there is a difference.

It is an on-going document that is constantly being updated and enhanced. This document is stored on my computer, on a secure web site and in our safe deposit box. Every family member knows about it and understands what it is.

A “In Case of Emergency” document should include:

  1. The location and attorney involved with the creation of:
    1. Revocable Living Trust,
    2. Individual Wills,
    3. Durable Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Surrogate and other legal documents.
  2. The names, account numbers, and contacts information for all:
    1. bank accounts,
    2. investment accounts,
    3. pensions, and past/current employers
    4. Annuities, life insurance policies
    5. Also confirm the structure of each asset and in the case of IRA’s the beneficiary since these may fall outside of your Revocable Living Trust.
  3. How income is generated, what steps are necessary to keep income coming in. Budget for living income and expenses. If you are still working, who at work to contact and what benefits might a spouse of a deceased worker get, like unused vacation pay, life insurance etc.
  4. Location of safe deposit box and the location of the keys. It might be best to give multiple family members access to the box.
  5. Business owned (if applicable) with complete details on tax and ownership structure, location of stock certificates and other important documents.
  6. Birthdates, social security numbers and contact information for all family members.
  7. The location of tax records, past returns and contact information of tax preparer.
    1. If your spouse has never done taxes before explain any complicated items.
  8. Social Security information. Explain if any benefits are currently being provided and the strategy for future benefits including how to file for Survivor benefits.
  9. Your digital information including all login and passwords information, it’s best to have a software program or web site where these are stored and protected. All family members email accounts, your digital photographs, music, key documents on your computer and location of all back-ups.
    1. Best practice – stored ALL your documents on a service like DropBox that can synchronize with multiple devices. If your house goes up in flames quickly, you’ll never get your computer and back-up devices out in time.
  10. Your home information:
    1. Mortgage holder (if applicable), how payments get made, contact
    2. Account information for utilities, trash collectors, newspapers, landscaping and other service providers. How property, school and other taxes are paid
  11. Insurance information, including location of policies, account numbers, contacts, etc. Be sure to include homeowners, car, healthcare and life insurance
  12. Automobile information, including loans (if applicable), location of title, registration #’s, license plate #’s etc.
  13. List all healthcare providers like family doctors, insurance policy renewal information and an updated history of healthcare issues. Reference any Durable Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Surrogates and other healthcare information.
  14. Credit Cards, loans and other obligations. List all account numbers, and toll free numbers to call to cancel cards or pay off balances.
  15. Family cell phone accounts and structure of plans.
  16. Churches, Clubs and organizations along with contact information
  17. Neighbors and friends that should be notified with full contact information.

Finally, include a list of specific steps to immediately take in the days after an emergency.

Step #1 …………………..

Step #2 ………………….

Step #3 ………………….

You can download a copy of this Emergency Document here.

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