A little preparation can go a long way. These three simple tasks can help you prepare for disaster and make sure your family is protected when they need it most.
1. Put an emergency kit together
No matter what section of the country you live in, it pays to be prepared for emergency situations. Fires, earthquakes, tornadoes and other disasters can strike, and if you are prepared, you'll be in better shape to weather the aftermath. Here are some vital necessities you can include in your emergency kit:
- A hand-crank or battery-powered radio and extra batteries: In the event of a natural disaster, keeping up-to-date on the latest information isn't a luxury; it's a necessity. Make sure you have a radio in your emergency kit so you can be aware of breaking news. If your radio requires batteries, check the expiration date periodically so they'll be ready if you need them.
- Flashlight and extra batteries: You may lose power in an emergency, so it pays to have a flashlight on hand. As with the radio, it's a good idea to check the batteries periodically to make sure your flashlight is in good working order.
- Dust masks: Smoke from fires or chemical leaks can result in contaminated air that can cause breathing difficulties, particularly for people who have respiratory issues. Keep a supply of dust masks on hand to make sure you're prepared. It may also be a good idea to keep duct tape and plastic sheeting in your kit for sealing off windows and doors to keep contaminants out.
- Pliers: This handy, multi-purpose tool can be critically important if you need to quickly turn off utilities in the event of an emergency. It may prove useful for other purposes as well, so it's a good idea to keep pliers in your emergency kit.
- First aid kit: A first aid kit with basic medical supplies such as bandages, antibiotic ointments, gauze, etc., is a must for a well-equipped emergency kit.
Emergency kits can be as simple or elaborate as you choose, and if you live in an area that is prone to a certain type of natural disaster, you may want to include items specific to that threat.
2. Set up a Power of Attorney and a Living Will
Do you know what will happen to you and your finances if you become sick or incapacitated? How will it affect your family? If you set up a power of attorney and living will, you can maintain a measure of control since you can designate how you want your medical treatment and finances handled. Here is a brief overview of how each document works:
- Living Will: This document that allows you to choose the medical treatment you would like to receive in advance so that you can direct your care even if you are unable to express your wishes due to illness or injury. A Living Will outlines specific instructions to your doctors about life support and other forms of medical treatment.
- Power of Attorney: A durable Power of Attorney allows you to designate who you would like to control your finances if you are sick or incapacitated. It also gives you important protection from court oversight. You can designate a trusted person to pay your medical bills, file your taxes, and handle your estate in whichever manner you choose.
A living will and power of attorney are great ways to protect your family and get prepared for the years to come. They can help you ensure that your wishes are respected even when you can't communicate what those wishes are. And they can help you make sure the courts do not take a role in your finances.
3. Write a Last Will
It's critically important to make sure you have an estate plan so that you, not the court, can decide how your property is distributed to your loved ones. If you have children, you'll want to make sure you designate guardianship. The best way to be prepared is to make a Last Will, and it's easy, fast, and inexpensive to do. Here's a brief description of how these documents work:
- Last Will: Family conflict can arise when your wishes aren't explicitly stated. To avoid it, you can record your wishes in a Last Will, designating who you want to receive your property, financial assets, and other possessions. You can also designate guardians for your children. It's also a good idea to make your bank accounts and retirement assets transferrable upon your death to avoid probate.
Protect your family by making sure your affairs are in order. A last will can help you make sure your wishes are carried out and can relieve the burden on your loved ones at a difficult time.
The bottom line
It feels good to know you've done all you can to protect your family. These three fast, simple, and inexpensive steps can help you get you off to a great start.