Helping clients create their own personalized disaster plan starts by educating them on the risks and dangers a disaster can have on them financially as well as emotionally. The best way to achieve that is by creating a client dialogue on this very complex subject. I’m hopeful that my previous two articles, “Building a Personalized Disaster Plan for Clients – Part I: The Documents” and “Building a Personalized Disaster Plan for Clients: Part II – The Four Major Post-Disaster Dangers,” will be helpful in this regard.
Once that discussion has started, the next step is to help them realize the need for creating a trusted relationship group. This group is vitally important to your client’s personalized disaster plan, as it dictates the efficiency and effectiveness of post-disaster results. Below is a brief list of who a trusted relationship group should include:
- Financial planner, financial advisor, wealth manager and/or broker who is committed to your client and their family’s personal investments, retirement goals and life planning events.
- A property and casualty insurance agent who helps during the client claims process, as well as continuously tracks whether their claims are being addressed in a timely fashion.
- A Certified Public Accountant for tax preparation services, as they are required by law to keep historical tax return filings for clients.
- A trusted family attorney for estate planning issues such as death, probate and/or the need for basic legal services.
- Architect and/or home builder/remodeling company that the client can trust for post-disaster issues.
Once that trusted relationship group has been finalized and documented for your client, it’s then important to walk them through five easy recommendations they can use to create and maintain their own personalized disaster plan:
- Acquire a home safe and/or bank safe deposit box. While most people only see the need for a home safe for weapons, tangible precious metals and cash, it’s also vital for storing originals of documents such as, deeds, titles, wills, power of attorney, contracts etc. Copies of all documents and even photos proving ownership of property, which was mentioned in my first article, should also be included in a home safe or a bank deposit box. Remember that not all home safes are waterproof; therefore, this may not be the best option for flooding disasters.
- Save all important documents electronically. A great resource for this is www.neatdesk.com, a simple desktop scanner with digital filing system software for your clients to easily save and organize all their important documents electronically. As for photos, saving data files electronically is now easier due to the advancement of digital cameras over the last five to 10 years. A second option is allowing for documents to be stored not just on a home computer, but on a portable external hard drive as well.
- Back up computers, external hard drives and files offsite . Not only is it important for your clients to have documents in electronic form, but having them backed up offsite is another necessity. Various services are available by searching “personal data backup solutions.” A few of these offsite location solutions include www.idrive.com , www.backupforall.com , www.mozy.com and www.fbackup.com. However, the ease of an external hard drive used to back up the computer is again worthwhile when implemented with a home safe or safe deposit box.
- Continuously update personal, family and household information . Updated financial statements, as well as pictures of all your assets owned in and outside the home, are very important. Keeping this updated at least semi-annually will greatly increase the speed of rebuilding and recovery should a disaster happen, and having current asset lists, valuations, pictures or video of personal property before disaster hits will substantiate insurance claims, expediting the process. Updating copies of all the important documents needed is not a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process as things change.
- Identify a post-crisis “hot” site. Most people have family members willing to help should a disaster strike. However, if that’s not an option, suggest that your client discuss with friends the possibility of staying at their home temporarily as a disaster planned hot site. If your client has everything destroyed, the need for a comfortable night’s sleep over the next month or so is very important, and having a pre-defined location will alleviate the simplest concern of all, “where will my family sleep tonight?”
There are various other articles and websites which I would like to note as additional resources on this issue: “IRS Offers 5 Tips to Prepare for Disaster” by Kathleen McBride; Emergency Preparedness Checklist on the FEMA website; and “Elder Law: Helping plan for a natural disaster” by Julian Gray and Frank Petrich.
Hopefully, none of our clients will ever have to experience the issue of disaster devastation, but planning for it is a very important factor about which we should be educating them. Therefore, my advice to all clients would be to create their own personalized disaster plan as simply as possible, and at the very least, identify a trusted relationship group of professionals to help them manage the daunting task of rebuilding their family’s life quickly.