In response to a series of wildfires that ravaged Southern California in 2017, I wrote a previous article explaining https://www.calilaw.com/saving-matters-12-must-items-pack-go-bag/ ready in the event a natural disaster or other emergency strikes your home. Go-bags originated with the US military, which requires its personnel to always keep one on-hand packed with the essential items needed to survive for at least three days following a disaster.When you have just minutes to evacuate, you won’t have time to think about what you should pack to survive the days—or weeks—to come, so the time to prepare for your family’s safety is now.
In 2020, we’re not only dealing with deadly wildfires again in California, we’re still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already killed more than 180,000 Americans and seems unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
In light of the increased dangers posed by the pandemic, I decided to update my previous go-bag article. Although most of the items you should have in your go-bag remain the same, here we’ll cover the supplies and documents you should pack to deal with COVID-19. Whether you are forced to temporarily relocate somewhere other than your home, require hospitalization, or are subject to quarantine, the pandemic comes with unique risks that call for additional preparation.
The go-bag revisited
Before we discuss the estate planning and other key documents you should include in your go bag, we need to mention some general supplies to include to help protect your family from contracting COVID-19. Along with the personal sanitary items listed in the previous article, you should add the following items:
- Face masks and/or face coverings
- Hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
- Lysol or other disinfectant sprays
- Disinfecting wipes
- Disposable gloves
Now, when it comes to your estate plan, even if you have all of the necessary planning documents in place and updated, they won’t do you any good if your loved ones don’t know about them or can’t quickly locate them during an emergency. Without immediate access to your plan, if you become seriously ill or injured, medical and financial decisions can be dangerously delayed or be made by someone other than the people you would want.
And the need for your plan to be easily accessible is particularly urgent during the pandemic. Due to the highly contagious nature of COVID, there’s a good chance your family members will not be allowed to accompany you if you are hospitalized or forced to quarantine. For these reasons, adding your estate plan and other important documents to your go-bag is a must.
While all of your estate planning documents should be included in your go-bag, be sure to include your up-to-date medical power of attorney and living will along with copies of your health insurance or Medicare card and a summary of your medical history. In your medical history, you’ll want to mention any chronic underlying medical conditions and illnesses, as well as list all prescriptions drugs, over-the-counter medications, and/or supplements you are currently taking—and don’t forget to list any known allergies.
Make sure your loved ones know about your go-bag, and where to find it. To make it as portable as possible, download your plan and other essential documents to a thumb drive you can carry in your go-bag and upload additional copies to the cloud.
Safeguard your belongings—and memories
While protecting your family’s health, safety, and well-being is the primary purpose of packing a go-bag, you should also take steps to prevent the financial devastation that can result from having your home and other property destroyed in a disaster. Obviously, having the appropriate levels of insurance coverage in place is your first task.
But to make sure the insurance companies fully reimburse you for what you stand to lose, you should also take video and photos of all your belongings. Such visual documentation can not only ensure you are able to replace your assets, but that your insurance claim is processed as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Finally, if you own your home, it should be titled in your living trust and your living trust MUST be identified as an “additional named insured” on your homeowner’s policy. Pull out your policy and check for that now. This often-overlooked detail can cause big problems in the event a claim must be made.