personal finance

19 Things You Should Have in Your Emergency Financial To-Go Kit

If disaster strikes, do you have your important financial documents ready to go in case you need to leave your home in a hurry? Here's what you'll need.

If a natural disaster hits, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to leave your home and temporarily relocate to a safer destination. If your home and its contents are damaged or destroyed, you'll need key documents (or copies of them) to reestablish lines of credit, secure a new driver's license or file insurance claims to cover any losses. Here's where to start.

Take an Inventory of Your Home

Walk through your entire residence with a cell phone camera to create a record of your possessions. Be sure to describe each item including the quantity and product serial number. Document the purchase date and price, and gather receipts or credit card statements for these items. If you don’t have a record of the price, look for a comparable item for sale online. Have jewelry, antiques, art and other valuables appraised. To find a professional appraiser near you, go to www.appraisers.org/find-an-appraiser.

Keep a copy of the video footage that's accessible from anywhere -- for example, in the form of a .mp4 file saved to the cloud. The inventory will help you determine whether you have enough coverage for your home's contents and document for tax purposes losses that insurance doesn't reimburse. Regularly update your inventory, especially after making major purchases or receiving expensive gifts.

Lastly, be sure to document the exterior and interior condition of your home before anything potentially gets damaged. This will help to establish your losses, if you need to file a claim with your insurer.

Documents to Take With You in a Sudden Emergency

  • Auto insurance policy (explains what’s covered if your vehicle gets damaged and how to contact the insurer to start your claim)
  • Birth certificate (You'll need the original if you have to establish your identity with financial institutions or make a temporary change of address.)
  • Car registration (You’ll need this and your car title if your vehicle is damaged and your insurer declares it a total loss.)
  • Car title
  • Driver's license (You'll need the original if you have to establish your identity with financial institutions or make a temporary change of address.)
  • Health insurance card
  • Health care proxy
  • Home insurance policy (explains what’s covered if your home gets damaged and how to contact the insurer to start your claim)
  • Living will
  • Medicare card
  • Mortgage papers
  • Passport (You'll need the original if you have to establish your identity with financial institutions or make a temporary change of address.)
  • Power of attorney
  • Property deed
  • Social Security card (You'll need the original if you have to establish your identity with financial institutions or make a temporary change of address.)
  • Will
  • W-2 forms (for reporting income; at least 3 years' worth of print or digital documents) 
  • 1098 forms (for deducting mortgage interest; at least 3 years' worth of print or digital documents)
  • 1099 forms (for reporting income; at least 3 years' worth of print or digital documents)

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