Emergency Preparedness and COVID-19: What You May Have Forgotten
The recent pandemic forced a lot of our attention on preparedness. We focused on supplies, getting kids settled into online learning, made plans for care of our elderly. It also called to our attention: What happens if we get sick? What happens if both spouses get sick? Aside from medical issues, does your family know where “everything” is? What is “everything”? How do you organize it?
In a time of crisis, the last thing a family should be doing is scramble to find documents or search for assets. Advance organization is key, and the current pandemic underscores the importance of financial and estate document organization.
Several years ago, a colleague got a phone call in the early morning. It was a client’s teenage child. Both of his parents were killed overnight in a car accident. His parents were very organized and had put together an emergency binder. In it was the wealth advisor’s contact information and instructions to call the advisor if anything happened, she would help.
What should be in the emergency binder?
The emergency binder should include:
- Current investment and bank accounts list
- Copies of recent statements are helpful as well
- Contact information for your wealth advisor, banker, attorney, and accountant
- Copies (not the originals) of your wills, trusts, powers of attorney for healthcare, powers of attorney for property and insurance contracts
- Originals should be kept in the safe deposit box or secured in your attorney’s office, not in the binder (in case of fire)
- For each family member, have copies of health insurance cards, doctor contact information, a list of current medical issues, medications, and allergies in a medical section in the binder
The idea is, in the event of an emergency, there is one place where all this information can be found. Family members should know where the binder is kept, and you should review it with your family. Update it at least annually. You should also review the location of any safe deposit boxes and the contact information for your financial advisors and attorneys with family members. It never hurts to have a copy in your safe deposit box.
The preparation of this binder, and discussing these subjects with your family, legal and financial advisors may not be a comfortable activity, but it is a necessary one. There was a recent news story about two sisters that came home from college during the recent quarantine. Within a few days, both of their parents were in intensive care with Covid-19. Emergencies happen quickly – often family members are required to make medical decisions just as quickly, all the while dealing with painful emotions and fear.
Our loved ones should not also have to rummage around looking for important documents or be unsure if there is insurance. When I saw the sisters being interviewed on their front lawn, I wondered if they had a binder to reach for. I hope so.
Putting this binder together for the family is an act of love and care. It will give your family one place to go for all the important documents and it will also give them and you peace of mind.
Notes: The above article is the author’s sole opinion for information and discussion purposes only. No part of this article is intended to constitute investment, legal or tax advice. The opinions expressed herein are not suitable for all persons. Consult your investment, legal and tax professionals for advice relating to your personal situation. No offer or solicitation is made by this article. Past performance is not indicative of future results.