Disaster and Emergency Help

Three Tips to Protect Vital Documents during Hurricane Season

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The images coming out of southern Texas following Hurricane Harvey have been devastating — and hurricane season is not over yet. In addition to creating a disaster preparedness plan for your family — including gathering supplies, identifying evacuation routes and creating a network to get in touch with loved ones — it’s important to protect your legal documents. Here are three tips to ensure vital paperwork is safe if your house is destroyed or damaged.

1. Gather important documents now so you are ready.

The list of documents you need to safeguard is long, but it will reduce stress and hassle after the hurricane if you prepare now. Include the following papers on your “must have” list.

Family Documents

  • Birth certificate or adoption certificate
  • Citizenship papers
  • Passport
  • Social Security card
  • Driver’s license
  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce decree
  • Child custody or guardianship papers
  • Military discharge or military ID
  • Medical records (immunization, prescription information)
  • Pet records (medical, vaccination, current photo, ID chip numbers)

Financial Paperwork

  • Loan documents
  • Insurance contracts — life, health, home, auto (if possible, include pictures or videos for insurance claims)
  • Insurance agent’s name and phone number
  • Real estate deeds or rental/lease agreements
  • Titles to property (house, car, boat)
  • Financial statements (retirement, investments, savings)

Legal Documents

  • Will
  • Living will
  • Power of attorney
  • HIPAA documents
  • Trust
  • Name change
  • Letter of instruction

2. Store your most important documents in a secure location.

There are several options to protect the documents listed above. You can store them outside of your home such as in a safety deposit box. For greater safety, store files in reliable out-of-area storage or store electronically and back up online with a subscription service. ARAG’s guidebook Legal Issues Surrounding a Natural Disaster outlines tips to safeguard legal documents.

3. Make copies of your vital documents and keep them in an easily accessible place in your home.

In addition to storing your important documents safely out of harm’s way in a secure off-site location, you should make copies you can grab quickly if you need to evacuate. Pack them in a sealed plastic bag to keep the documents dry during evacuation. If you don’t have time or the ability to gather all the listed documents before the storm, focus on the most important and most difficult to replace.

If any vital documents are lost or destroyed, please reference this government resource for more information or call 1-844-872-4681.

We’re here to help.

If you’re an ARAG legal plan member and you have questions as you prepare for a hurricane, please call ARAG Customer Care at 1-800-247-4184 to see how your legal plan may help. You can also log in to ARAGLegalCenter.com to review plan coverages and access legal tools and resources.