Preparing for Disasters

We are in the midst of hurricane season and while most of us do not have to worry like some, the Internal Revenue Service reminds everyone to develop an emergency preparedness plan. Taxpayers, whether individuals, organizations or businesses, should take time now to create or update their emergency plans.

So, even though we may not be likely to experience a hurricane, there other disasters that could happen – fire, damage from the wind, etc.  What should you do to be prepared? 

  • Important original documents such as birth certificates, insurance policies, Wills, Trusts, passports, car titles, etc. should be kept in a fireproof, waterproof container in a secure space.  If you have a safe deposit box; great.  Otherwise, make certain that your storage is substantial.  Those little fireproof boxes may not withstand intense heat, so do your homework on their durability. 

  • Documents such as deeds are always good to have but as long as they have been filed at the Court House, you needn’t worry about them if they are lost. Copies can always be obtained. 

  • It is a good idea to make copies of your important papers, including income tax returns, and give a hard copy or an electronic copy to a trusted individual.

  • If your home was destroyed, how well would you remember EVERYTHING that is in it?  Take photographs or videos of the content which can help support claims for insurance purposes. 

  • The IRS publishes a Disaster Resource Guide for Individuals and Businesses which is available on their website. 

  • If there is a federally-declared disaster, the IRS has trained specialists to help with disaster-related issues.  If a taxpayer is impacted by a disaster outside of a federally declared disaster area whose records are located in a disaster area, they can receive assistance by contacting the IRS. 

Be prepared.  Should you be unfortunate to suffer a disaster loss, know that there are resources to help you through a difficult time.

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Kay Sowa

About the Author

Kay Sowa is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent, an Accredited Estate Planner®, and a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. She oversees the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. She is an accomplished author and lecturer who has frequently spoken on behalf of a number of organizations including the National Business Institute and the Institute of Paralegal Education.

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