How to Keep Records Safe From Natural Disaster

Tax Planning

One of the worse natural disasters in history hit the Philippines last week.  Whether you’ve been hit by a natural disaster or know someone hit by disaster our hearts go out to you or anyone you know faced with this difficult situation.  We know that natural disasters may occur without any warning, but hopefully these tips offered by Michael Rubin will help you safeguard your records before they occur.

No one ever thinks it will happen to them, but far too frequently, it happens to someone.  While I hope you’re never the victim of a natural disaster, here’s a quick hit list of some ways to protect your records in the event of a natural disaster.

Get a Safe Deposit Box

One simple way to ensure your most important documents are preserved is to rent a safe deposit box at your local bank.  Typically quite inexpensive, safe deposit boxes are a good place to store seldom-accessed but valuable documents such as birth and marriage certificates, wills, the deed to your home, and the titles to your cars.  The smallest (and least expensive) size offered by the bank is typically sufficient for one’s needs.

Go Digital!

One of the easiest ways to ensure a proper back-up of important records in the event of a storm, earthquake, or other natural disaster is to create and retain digital images of important documents.  PDFs work best, but even a JPG is far better than nothing.

Once you have your electronic copies, store them in more than one place. For starters, put them on an external hard drive that you can quickly grab and carry with you in an emergency (A CD or zip can work well too if you want something still smaller).  In addition, save your backup files to one of the increasingly popular cloud-based services (e.g., Dropbox, iCloud, etc.) so you can access them anywhere you can get an internet connection.

Harness Your Inner Spielberg

Another important strategy to protecting your valuables in case of a calamity is to take a video of your household goods.  Not only will this help with any insurance claim, but a video might also help you defend a casualty and theft loss deduction.  Store this video in your safe deposit box and consider putting a digital copy on the cloud along with a hard copy (e.g., DVD) somewhere far away, like an extended family member’s or friend’s house in another state.

Preparation is Key

With some notable exceptions, most truly horrific natural disasters do not come with ample advance warning.  Thinking that you’ll prepare once you know the “storm is for real” is typically not a viable strategy. This is especially true of financial records, which will be at the bottom of the list in a crisis evacuation. Well below the kids, the pets, a couple of old photo albums, your jewelry, etc.  That’s why creating a back-up today is the best time to ensure you are protected for what hopefully never comes.

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