In response to a series of wildfires that ravaged Southern California in 2017, a colleague of mine wrote a previous article explaining why your family should have 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, people are 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. And on top of all that, we’re still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been attributed to the death of many Americans and seems unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
In light of the increased dangers posed by the pandemic, we decided to update the previous go-bag article. Although most of the items you should have in your go-bag remain the same, here we’ll cover the supplies and documents you should pack to deal with COVID-19. Whether you are forced to temporarily relocate somewhere other than your home, require hospitalization, or are subject to quarantine, the pandemic comes with unique risks that call for additional preparation.
The go-bag revisited Before we discuss the estate planning and other key documents you should include in your go bag, we need to mention some general supplies to include to help protect your family from contracting COVID-19. Along with the personal sanitary items we listed in our previous article, you should add the following items:
● Face masks and/or face coverings
● Hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
● Lysol or other disinfectant sprays
● Disinfecting wipes
● Disposable gloves
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. Without immediate access to your plan, if you become seriously ill or injured, medical and financial decisions can be dangerously delayed or be made by someone other than the people you would want. And the need for your plan to be easily accessible 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. For these reasons, adding your estate plan and other important documents to your go-bag is a must.
While all of your estate planning documents should be included in your go-bag, having your medical power of attorney and living will/advance directive readily accessible is especially vital for medical emergencies. 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.
At the same time, you should 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 here: COVID-19 Highlights Critical Need for Advance 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 colleague on creating your own personal resource map for the people you love.
As noted in the first “go-bag” article, 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 home’s primary exit, so it’s there for you or someone else to grab on the way out the door. To make it as portable as possible, 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.
Safeguard your belongings—and memories While protecting your family’s health, safety, and well-being is the primary purpose of packing a go-bag, you should also take steps to prevent the financial devastation that can result from having your home and 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.
But 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. Of course, not all of your belongings can be replaced, so you should take additional precautions to safeguard your most precious sentimental items—photo albums, home videos, old letters, family histories, and treasured cards from the past. 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.
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 BC Counselors at Law, PLLC. 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.