Protecting your clients’ vital documents during disasters

If you represent buyers or sellers of real estate located where the threat of natural disasters exists, you will want to offer advice to your clients for how to protect themselves and their belongings. Certainly, those in a floodplain or hurricane path will want to carry adequate insurance, create an evacuation plan and establish an emergency fund to get them through those difficult times.

However, coming through the other side of a catastrophe is often much more challenging when you cannot find critical documents. Ideally, your clients will keep their vital documents in a secure and accessible place where they can grab them quickly in case of an evacuation. Fortunately, these days there are many options for protecting one’s important records, but planning ahead is key.

Planning for emergencies

Sadly, it is common for homeowners to have to leave in a hurry, such as during a hurricane, flood, building fire or other emergency. You can offer good advice to your clients by recommending they protect the deed to their new home, homeowner’s insurance policies, mortgage account information and tax records, among others documents.

In addition to keeping the original documents safe, it is also wise for homeowners to make copies of these documents to store in a lock box, binder or in the cloud. Advise your clients not to keep the copies in the same place as the originals. In fact, disaster preparedness experts recommend keeping originals for many documents outside the home, such as in a safety deposit box. In addition to the items mentioned above, homeowners should copy and secure the following:

  • Their driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, passports, birth certificates and other forms of personal identification
  • Marriage licenses
  • Any certificates of education or professional achievement
  • Documentation of citizenship or military IDs
  • Bank statements, tax records, credit card and debt information and other financial records
  • Documentation for immunizations, health insurance and prescription medications
  • Any special instructions for medical care and the phone numbers for their physicians
  • Their wills and trust documentation, powers of attorney, and advance directives
  • Vehicle titles and the authentication and appraisals for their valuables

Once your clients have gathered, copied and secured their important and valuable documents, they should notify their loved ones where to find them or how to access them. Having this information can be a tremendous relief to family members who might have to step in and help during difficult times.

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