Preparing for Emergencies


We work hard to protect our families, but life can be unpredictable. If emergencies arise, you and your loved ones need to be prepared. By developing Key Contacts and Key Documents lists, you can minimize uncertainties and delays brought about by:

  • Any event requiring emergency evacuation (e.g. fire, flood, earthquake).
  • Unexpected illness or injury if you and/or your spouse become incapacitated.
  • Travel mishaps or detention in a foreign country.

In these situations, it is helpful for key family members or trustees to have the necessary information to handle financial matters and perform custodial duties. Thus, having a Key Contacts list and a Key Documents locator available are important. In order to accomplish this, it is necessary to decide in advance who you want to have access to this information and what information is pertinent to your financial and general well being.

Your Key Contacts list should contain names, companies, phone numbers, addresses, and e-mail addresses of those who have access to your financial and other key records. Where applicable, you should also include account numbers.

  • Attorney – for Will(s), Trust(s), Health Care Proxies, and Power of Attorney documents.
  • Executor(s)/Trustee(s)/Custodian(s) – a list of person(s) who have Power of Attorney to act on your behalf (if applicable).
  • Financial planner – depending on the level of involvement, he/she should have information on your investments, insurance policies such as life, long term care, disability and even your property and casualty insurance (i.e. homeowner’s, auto, umbrella liability, valuables, and business policies), tax accountant, and insurance agent contact information.
  • Insurance agents – life, property and casualty, disability, and long term care, if applicable.
  • Health insurance contact (also covered in the next item).
  • Employer or former employer contact – employee benefits (such as pension and savings plans, life, disability, health and long term care insurance, etc.).
  • Bank contact or contacts along with bank account number(s), safe deposit box number(s) and the location of the key(s) for these boxes.
  • Investment advisor(s) – other than a financial planner, if applicable.
  • Accountant or tax preparer.
  • List of lenders – for debts and obligations with account numbers, due dates and maturity dates, even if the payments have been set up to be automatically deducted from your bank account(s). This way your family can plan and budget to ensure that sufficient funds are made available in your bank account(s).
  • List of physician(s), dentist(s), pharmacy or pharmacist(s) providing medications.
  • Contact(s) for funeral arrangements and burial sites if this type of planning has been made in advance.

With your contacts in place, you then need to decide where you want to keep original and/or copies of your important documents so that they are accessible to key family members or the trustee/custodian. It may be helpful to develop a Master List which outlines and identifies the Key Documents by name and location.

Vital identification information and documents can include, but are not limited to, the following.

Please customize to fit your circumstances.

  • Social Security Card(s) – including those for your minor children.
  • Passport (s) – including those for your minor children.
  • Driver’s license(s) – copy of each.
  • Birth, baptismal, marriage certificate, adoption certificate(s), divorce decree, child and/or spousal support documents.
  • Citizenship papers or green card (including those for your minor children).
  • Military record of service.
  • Health insurance and/or Medicare card(s) – copies.
  • Video of home(s), furniture, car(s), art, jewelry and appraisals as proof for insurance claims.
  • Copy of Will(s), Trust(s), Power(s) of Attorney, Health Care Proxies, Trustee/Guardian and Power of Attorney documents.
  • Check books, passbook(s) for savings accounts, investment account statements – include a sample copy of each for reference.
  • Tax returns for 3 years.
  • Insurance policies for life, long term care, health, property and casualty.
  • Debt obligations – bank note, loan papers and loan terms. For homeowners, it may be helpful to keep a copy of the survey and title insurance policy.
  • Ownership papers for homes, cars, etc., including bank payoff statements acknowledging that a loan has been fully paid.
  • Appraisal certificates (copies of which should also be given to your insurance agent if these items are insured). Please note that your homeowners insurance does not automatically cover art, furs, jewelry, valuable china, silverware and silver service, so you should check with your insurance agent. Depending on the insurance company, computers may or may not be covered, so you should declare them on your insurance policy and keep purchase invoice/receipts.
  • Burial plot/site document(s), funeral agreements, etc.
  • Jewelry, gold and silver coins, and important family heirlooms.

Chances are major emergencies such as those mentioned above will not occur. Still, for the well-being of your family and the security of your assets, it is best to be prepared. It would be worthwhile to take time to create the lists that we have described. This simple organization will help to bring peace of mind and minimize disruption for your family if and when an unexpected event occurs.

We have prepared some quick and easy forms for you to use as a start. However, there are many excellent websites on this topic with detailed forms for your use. To name a few, each of the websites below has a “Financial Emergency” or a “Financial Issues” link. Some of the websites also offer disaster recovery and survival advice.

www.citizenscorps.gov – among other topics, this website offers a Financial Emergency Kit

www.hopecoalitionamerica.org – among other topics, this website has an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit

www.ready.gov – provides emergency advice and resources

www.ag.ndsu.edu/flood – this website has a link to Financial Issues with an article on “Financial Emergency Preparedness: Creating a Portable File of Important Documents” with detailed forms.

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