The arrival of hurricane season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic requires us all to be doubly vigilant. You’ll be hearing a lot about hurricane preparedness when it comes to protecting yourself and your loved ones in terms of shelter, safety and supplies. Researchers are predicting 19 named storms this year, and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has posted some important operational guidelines on its website (fema.gov).
Personal safety should remain your number one priority; however, don’t neglect your financial affairs. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are your original estate-planning documents, including your will, securely stored? If stored at home, place the papers in a fire and water-proof safe, but make sure to share the combination with someone you know and trust. If you use a bank’s safe deposit box, consider putting the box in the name of your trust, so your successor trustee will have access in case something happens to you.
- Have you arranged to receive text messages when your debit or credit cards are used? This can protect your accounts from fraud.
- Have you developed strong passwords and secured them? Always use a combination of letters, numbers, symbols and capital letters, and be sure to change your passwords often.
- Do you have an adequate number of health care surrogates listed in your health care directives? Do they all have the ability and interest to serve you? If out of state, can they afford to travel to care for you? Did you share a copy of the document with your named surrogates? Be sure you review your documents with a trust officer or your attorney.
- Are you leaving town? Please carry your Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will and Designation of Heath Care Surrogates with you when traveling. Should something happen, you will be prepared, which can remove unneeded stress from you and your loved ones.
- Have you pulled your credit report this year to be sure no one is using your credit? Everyone is eligible to get free weekly credit reports from the three national credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, who are making these reports free for the next year. To get your free reports, go to annualcreditreport.com. We recommend you rotate among the agencies to be sure your report is accurate. Each company is slightly different in what they report.
- Are your assets titled properly to ensure your estate plans are carried out? It is important that your beneficiary designations match your wishes. We find that many estate plans fail due to incorrect titling and beneficiary listings. Please review your estate plans with a careful emphasis on your asset titles and beneficiary designations. Consider a review with a reputable trust officer to be sure your plan will work as you intended.
- Have you selected a fiduciary to manage your accounts? A fiduciary is legally and ethically bound to act in your best interests. Trust officers must act in your best interest.