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Include estate plan in emergency kit

In Oklahoma, they have tornados. The Mountain West has blizzards. Here, closer to home in Florida, we deal with the after-effects of hurricanes. Although all of these natural disasters are distinctly different, they all have one thing in common: They can compromise your estate plan by destroying critical documents. Experts in the field say your emergency planning kit should include not only first aid supplies and other, more traditional items, but also legal provisions in case of tragedy.

What should you include in your emergency preparedness kit? Estate planning specialists recommend keeping the basics close at hand, such as your last will and testament, power of attorney, living will and health care surrogate. These documents are particularly salient considering the fact that injuries may accompany natural and man-made disasters.

Your last will and testament is the document that directs your executor or executrix when distributing your assets after death. If you use a will-based system - as many Americans do - remember that your will must be "proven" after your death by going through probate. Next, your power of attorney should be included in the emergency kit. This document names an agent to act for you in the event that you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to sign legal documents and make decisions. More specifically, the health care surrogate form allows other people to make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated. Finally, your living will should be included in the estate planning documents. This is the document that determines who is allowed to "pull the plug" in case of brain death and other severe injuries. Additional information about trusts could also be included in your emergency kit.

Without this critical information, your loved ones could spend thousands trying to sort out your estate plans after your death. Be prepared for natural disasters and other emergencies by including critical documents in your emergency kit. If you have questions about these documents, consult a qualified probate attorney in your area.

Source:  www.floridatoday.com, "Financial Q&A: It's wise to include key documents in a disaster kit" Steven Lacey, Jun. 10, 2013