Make Sure Your Estate Plan and Other Essential Documents are Safe from Disasters

Senior Law News | Oct 4, 2022 | Rachel H. Snead

Hurricane Ian made landfall in the U.S. this past week, leaving a terrible path of destruction in its wake. It is times like these when we must review our plans for when such a disaster should befall us and determine how we can protect that which we prize most.

It’s an unfortunate reality that with the increasing number of natural disasters across the country, including fires, floods, and hurricanes, the chance that you could lose your house and possessions has become more likely. In the event of such a disaster, it is important that your estate planning and other important documents are beyond reach and easily retrievable. The following are important tips for protecting your estate plan.

If your home is destroyed by a natural disaster or another event, you will want to be able to access important information quickly. First, you should assemble all of your crucial documents and information into one place, including the following: 

  • Account numbers and passwords. Keep a list of your bank and e-mail accounts and securely store your passwords.  
  • Contact information. Make sure you know how to contact your attorney, advisors, and insurance company. 
  • Legal documents. You should have copies of all your legal documents, including your will, trust, power of attorney, and advance medical directive. You also need to know where any deeds and insurance contracts are kept. 
  • Tax returns. It is recommended that you have three years’ worth of tax returns stored. 
  • Medical information. You need to keep track of any prescription medicine and health insurance information. 

Once you have all your documents and information, you should store them in a safe and secure location that will survive a natural disaster. A fireproof and floodproof safe in your house is one way to safeguard documents; a safe deposit box at a bank is also an option. Your attorney may be able to store your legal documents for you as well. Many firms offer secure storage of documents.

Another option is online storage. There are online cloud storage systems that ensure your documents are available to you just by logging on. Dropboxidrive, and Microsoft OneDrive are some online storage options. If you use online storage, make sure you know your passwords. If your information is on a hard drive or thumb drive, store the drives in a secure location, not just in a desk drawer.   

It is important to note that with regards to your will, a copy of the document will not suffice. Once you have passed away, the original document must be probated with the appropriate court. If the original document cannot be located, it is presumed to have been lost and/or destroyed and your estate will pass by intestacy. Online storage is a great option for securely storing documents so that they are easily accessible to you at any time. However, the originals of these documents, especially your will, should be kept in a fireproof and floodproof safe, a safety deposit box, or with your attorney if they offer storage of documents.

Regardless of which storage option you use, be sure your loved ones know where the information is and how to access it. To make certain you have all the pieces of your estate plan in place and stored properly, contact your attorney. 


ASK JAKE & ANGUS

Hook Law Center: The weather got really cold seemingly overnight! While it storms outside, we’re thinking about all the fun holidays coming up, especially Christmas. Where do some of our most beloved Christmas traditions come from?

Jake & Angus: The Modern Christmas Tree – Brew a cup o’ tea when trimming your tree this year to pay homage to its origins. When Prince Albert of Germany got a tree for his new wife, Queen Victoria of England, it really took off across the pond. A drawing of the couple in front of a Christmas tree first appeared in Illustrated London News in 1848. To use modern parlance, the idea went viral.

Santa Clause – You probably already knew that the idea of Santa Claus came from St. Nicholas. The saint wasn’t a bearded man who wore a red suit; that tradition came much later. In the fourth century, the Christian bishop gave away his large inheritance to the poor and rescued women from servitude. In Dutch, his name is Sinter Klaas, which later morphed into Santa Claus in English.

Stockings – Legend has it, we hang stockings by the chimney with care thanks to a poor man who didn’t have enough money for his three daughters’ dowries. Generous old St. Nick dropped a bag of gold down their chimney one night after the girls had hung their freshly-washed stockings there to dry. That’s where the gold ended up, and the tradition stuck.

Rachel H. Snead

Associate Attorney
757-399-7506 | 252-722-2890
[email protected]

Rachel Snead is an associate attorney with Hook Law practicing primarily in the areas of estate planning, estate and trust administration, guardianship and conservatorships, dispute resolution, and fiduciary litigation. To date, she has litigated and settled over 50 matters. She enjoys the diversity of work that elder law provides, and the challenges presented by litigation just as much as she enjoys helping people with creating their unique estate plan and navigating the complex administration of estates and trusts.

 A graduate of the University of Richmond School of Law and Virginia Commonwealth University, Rachel is admitted to the Virginia State Bar. She is also a member of the Virginia Bar Association (VBA), the Hampton Roads Estate Planning Council, the Virginia Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (VAELA), and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association (VTLA).

In 2022 she became a licensed health and life insurance agent and attended the prestigious National Trial Advocacy College at the University of Virginia School of Law where she received intensive hands-on advocacy training.

 She has taught multiple continuing legal education courses including, “Getting Started in Elder Law,” “Virginia Probate from Start to Finish,” and “Guardianships and Assisted Decision-Making in Virginia,” and has facilitated sessions for VAELA including “Medicaid & SSI When a Client Owns a Business.” She has also been published on various platforms including T & E Magazine, WealthManagement.com and Age in Action, a quarterly newsletter published by the Virginia Center on Aging and Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.

Practice Areas

  • Estate Planning
  • Estate & Trust Administration
  • Guardianships & Conservatorships
  • Litigation & Dispute Resolution
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