There are resources that help you obtain most, if not all, of your information, but you can make it easier for yourself in case a disaster does happen.

  • Store important documents in a safety-deposit box, with the exception of your will. Your executor or next-of-kin would need access to the will to gain access to the box.
  • Do an annual household inventory. Photograph or film items, and collect serial numbers, model, and cost.
  • If you have a house, photograph the exterior. Landscaping may not be insurable, but it increases the value of your home.
  • Prepare a portable evacuation box. This should include your household inventory, some cash, photocopies of deeds, wills, passports, birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, drug and vision prescriptions, immunization records, negatives of photographs, change for pay-phone calls or a calling card, and backups of financial data.
For additional information see the Red Cross (www.redcross.org) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (www.fema.gov).

In the aftermath:
Call your credit card companies ASAP. Some offer payment holidays, increased credit lines for emergency purposes, etc. Submit insurance claim forms ASAP. Also, the IRS can provide copies of prior tax returns. Amend the previous year's returns when reporting current losses.

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