In response to a series of wildfires that ravaged Southern California in 2017, we wrote a previous article called “Why Your Family Should Have a Go-Bag,” which explains why you need a go-bag ready in the event a natural disaster or other emergency strikes your home. Go-bags originated with the US military, which requires its personnel to always keep one on-hand packed with the essential items needed to survive for at least three days following a disaster.
When you have just minutes to evacuate, you won’t have time to think about what you should pack to survive the days—or weeks—to come, so the time to prepare for your family’s safety is now.
In 2020, we’re not only dealing with deadly wildfires again in California, but we’re also experiencing multiple hurricanes on the East and Gulf Coasts, and a number of devastating tornadoes and floods in the Midwest. On top of all that, we’re still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already killed more than 180,000 Americans and seems unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
With all of his going on, we decided to update our previous go-bag article. Although most of the items you should have in your go-bag remain the same, here we’ll focus on the supplies and documents you should pack specifically to deal with COVID-19. We added this considering you could be forced to temporarily relocate somewhere other than your home, require hospitalization, or become subject to quarantine. A normal go-bag might not be enough because the pandemic comes with unique risks that call for additional preparation.
The go-bag revisited
We need to mention some general supplies to include to help protect your family from contracting COVID-19 or spreading it to other people you care about before we discuss the estate planning and other key documents you should include in your go-bag. You should pack the following items along with the personal sanitary items we listed in our previous article:
- Face masks and/or face coverings
- Hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
- Lysol or other disinfectant sprays
- Disinfecting wipes
- Disposable gloves
Furthermore, when it comes to your estate plan, even if you have all of the necessary planning documents in place and updated they won’t do you any good if your loved ones don’t know about them or can’t quickly locate them during an emergency. This could cause medical and financial decisions to be dangerously delayed or be made by someone other than the people you would want if you become seriously ill or injured.
You can see why this is particularly urgent during the pandemic. Due to the highly contagious nature of COVID, there’s a good chance your family members will not be allowed to accompany you if you are hospitalized or forced to quarantine.
The most important of your estate planning documents to have on hand is your medical power of attorney and living will. Without these documents doctors and other healthcare professionals won’t know your wishes for treatment or which of your loved ones should help them make decisions.
That means another way you need to prepare is to review and update your medical power of attorney and living will to address the unique medical scenarios and treatments related to COVID-19. The specifics of what this entails can be found herein our previous blog post, “COVID-19 Highlights Critical Need for Advanced Healthcare Directives.”
Copies of your health insurance or Medicare card, along with a summary of your medical history should also be included in your go-bag. In your medical history, you’ll want to mention any chronic underlying medical conditions and illnesses, as well as list all prescriptions drugs, over-the-counter medications, and/or supplements you are currently taking—and don’t forget to list any known allergies.
You may also want to have your financial power of attorney and inventory of assets on hand so that your loved ones would know what you have, where it is, and how to access it in the event you become incapacitated. If you have not yet created an inventory of your assets or the other legal documents you’d need, please watch this training by my mentor on creating your own personal resource map for the people you love.
Back in our first article about go-bags, we mentioned including your ID and other essential personal documents in your go-bag should be a top priority. Among these items, you should also include contact information for your primary care doctor and other medical providers, as well as listing your emergency contacts, particularly your agents for both medical and financial power of attorney.
Make sure your loved ones know about your go-bag and where to find it. You might even want to keep the bag near your front door so it’s there for you or someone else to grab on the way out. You can even download your plan and other essential documents to a thumb drive you can carry in your go-bag and upload additional copies to the cloud to make it as portable as possible.
Safeguard your belongings—and memories
A go-bag is designed to help protect you and your family’s physical health, safety, and well-being. However, you should also take steps to prevent the financial devastation that can result from having your home or other property destroyed in a disaster. Obviously, having the appropriate levels of insurance coverage in place is your first task—and we can help with this.
A tip to make sure the insurance companies fully reimburse you for what you stand to lose: you should also take video and photos of all your belongings. We recommend walking through each room of your home, opening all cabinet and closet doors, along with desk and dresser drawers, to record everything stored inside. Such visual documentation can not only ensure you are able to replace your assets, but that your insurance claim is processed as quickly and smoothly as possible.
You should also take additional precautions to safeguard your most precious and irreplaceable sentimental items—photo albums, home videos, old letters, family histories, and treasured cards. Since you won’t have the time or space to bring these items with you in your go-bag, you should make digital copies of these keepsakes and store them in the cloud.
We are keenly aware of the priceless value these items represent and we believe safely storing your sentimentals online is so important we offer this as a service to all of our clients. Be sure to ask us how we can help you preserve your family’s precious mementos.
Planning ahead is key
Given the chaotic times we’re living in, it’s no wonder people are experiencing increasing levels of fear, anxiety, and confusion. Although it’s not possible to totally prevent you or your loved ones from experiencing injury, illness, or death, putting proactive planning strategies in place can significantly minimize the suffering and conflict that can result if something tragic does occur.
With us, as your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help ensure you’ve taken every conceivable precaution to protect your family and assets from today’s growing litany of threats. Contact us today to get started with a Family Wealth Planning Session™.
This article is a service of Levi Alexander, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.