The Need For a “Go-Bag” Is Even More Important During a Pandemic

In the event of an emergency, the most important thing on our mind is keeping our family and loved ones safe from immediate harm. After we know our loved ones are safe, then we think about the multitude of other things needed, such as food, shelter, water, and other necessities of daily life.

Anyone that knows me, knows that I lived in Florida most of my life and raised my family in Florida. Hurricane preparedness was a way of life. Every year as summer approached, families were ready to flee if a hurricane was heading our way. When I moved to Colorado, I quickly discovered that with a wildfire, often times you didn’t get as much advanced notice, so emergency preparedness became even more important. I quickly learned that it is vital to stay prepared and have supplies packed in the event that you and your family have to leave at a moment’s notice.

The concept of the “go-bag” originated with the US military. All military personnel are required to keep essential survival items sufficient for at least three days, packed and ready to go. We need to be just as prepared. 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.

This year, we are not only dealing with deadly wildfires in Colorado, hurricanes on the East and Gulf Coasts, and several devastating tornadoes and floods in the Midwest, but we are also still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is highly unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

Although most of the items you need in a go-bag remain the same across most scenarios, in light of the increased dangers posed by the pandemic, we decided to cover the supplies and documents you should have in your go-bag as we deal with COVID-19. Whether you are forced to temporarily relocate, require hospitalization, or are subject to quarantine, there are unique risks that we all must be prepared for.

The Go-Bag

Before we discuss the estate planning and other key documents you should include in your go-bag, here are some general supplies to include in your COVID-19 go-bag:

● Face masks and/or face coverings

● Hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol

● Lysol or other disinfectant sprays

● Disinfecting wipes

● Disposable gloves

Also, consider packing the following:

1) ID and other essential documents: Bring copies of your passport, driver’s license, and/or state ID card stored in a sealed Ziploc bag. Also consider packing the deed to your home, vehicle titles/registration, printed maps, and a recent family photo with faces clearly visible for easy identification.

2) Cash: Carry at least $250 in relatively small bills and keep it with your ID in a waterproof bag.

3) Shelter: A lightweight tent, along with Mylar emergency blankets can help keep you warm and dry.

4) Water and a water filter: You’ll need at least one gallon of water per person per day. Bring as much bottled water as possible, but also include a water purification straw and/or purification tablets, along with a steel container to boil water in.

5) A multi-tool: These modern-day Swiss Army knives come with a wide array of essential tools, from a knife and screwdriver to tweezers and a can opener.

6) First-aid kit and prescription medications: The likelihood of injury skyrockets in the wake of disasters. A first-aid kit, including any of your prescription medications and other life-sustaining medical supplies, is a necessity.

7) Light: Flashlights with extra batteries are great, but headlamps are even better because they are ultra-compact and leave your hands free.

8) An emergency whistle: Emergency whistles can alert rescue crews and help locate others in low-visibility conditions.

9) A solar-powered emergency radio and cellphone charger: Without power, you will need a way to stay in touch with the outside world. Today you can find devices that include a combination radio, cell-phone charger, and flashlight all in one, with the extra option of hand-cranked power to keep things charged even in the dark.

10) Sanitary items: Pack toilet paper, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, soap, as well as tampons and/or pads if needed.

11) Clothes: You only need enough clothes to keep you warm and comfortable for a few days. Don’t overpack! Stick to essentials like underwear, socks, extra shoes, a jacket, a poncho, a hat, and gloves. Tailor your clothing to the particular climate and region you live in. In colder locations, think about layers and bring heavier outerwear.

12) Food: Focus on high-protein, high-calorie foods that will give you the energy you need to live and get from point A to point B. The most recommended options include energy bars, MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat), freeze-dried survival food, and meal-replacement shakes.

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.

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, having your medical power of attorney and advanced healthcare directives readily accessible is especially vital for medical emergencies. Without these documents, doctors and other healthcare professionals won’t know your wishes for treatment or which of your loved ones should help them make decisions.

At the same time, you should review and update your medical power of attorney and advanced healthcare directives to address the unique medical scenarios and treatments related to COVID-19. The specifics of what this entails can be found here: COVID-19 Highlights Critical Need for Advanced Healthcare Directives.

Copies of your health insurance or Medicare card, along with a summary of your medical history should also be included in your go-bag. In your medical history, you’ll want to mention any chronic underlying medical conditions and illnesses, as well as list all prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and/or supplements you are currently taking—and don’t forget to list any known allergies.

You may also want to have your financial power of attorney and inventory of assets on hand so that your loved ones would know what you have, where it is, and how to access it in the event you become incapacitated. If you have not yet created an inventory of your assets or the other legal documents you’d need, this may be a valuable next step for you to ensure you have everything you need in place for the ones you love.

As noted before, including your ID and other essential personal documents in your go-bag should be a top priority. Among these items, you should also include contact information for your primary care doctor and other medical providers, as well as listing your emergency contacts, particularly your agents for both medical and financial power of attorney.

Make sure your loved ones know about your go-bag, and where to find it. You might even want to keep the bag near your home’s primary exit, so it’s there for you or someone else to grab on the way out the door. 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—and we can help with this.

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. We recommend walking through each room of your home, opening all cabinet and closet doors, along with desk and dresser drawers, to record everything stored inside. Such visual documentation can not only ensure you can replace your assets but that your insurance claim is processed as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Of course, not all of your belongings can be replaced, so you should take additional precautions to safeguard your most precious sentimental items—photo albums, home videos, old letters, family histories, and treasured cards from the past. Since you won’t have the time or space to bring these items with you in your go-bag, you should make digital copies of these keepsakes and store them in the cloud.

Keenly aware of the priceless value these items represent, we believe safely storing your sentimental things online is so important we offer this as a service to all of our clients. Be sure to ask us how we can help you preserve your family’s precious mementos.

Planning Ahead is Key

Given the chaotic times we’re living in, it’s no wonder people are experiencing increasing levels of fear, anxiety, and confusion. Although it’s not possible to totally prevent you or your loved ones from experiencing injury, illness, or death, putting proactive planning strategies in place can significantly minimize the suffering and conflict that can result if something tragic does occur. We can help ensure you’ve taken every conceivable precaution to protect your family and assets from today’s growing litany of threats. Contact us today to get started with a Family Wealth Planning Session™.

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This article is a service of Cris Carter Law, the attorney with heart. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.

Your “Blended” Family Is Likely Headed to Court Unless You Do This

Family is the most important priority to a great majority of people – whether that includes full or step-siblings, birth parents or adoptive, or family you have chosen for yourself. Because it is so important, many of us want to make sure our families are taken care of after we are gone. For those of us who don’t have a nuclear family, however, which is made up of a mom, a dad, and full siblings, protecting and taking care of your family can be a little more complex.

If you have a blended family and you do not plan for what happens to your assets if you are incapacitated or gone, you are almost certainly guaranteeing hurt feelings, conflict, and maybe even a long, drawn out court battle.

So let’s start with an explanation of what a blended family is and whether you have one. If you have stepchildren, or children from a prior marriage, or other people you consider “kin” who are not considered legal relatives in the eyes of the law, you’ve got a blended family.

Bottom line: if you have a blended family, you need an estate plan, and not just a will you created for yourself online, or a trust that isn’t intentionally designed to keep your family out of court and out of conflict. Period. End of story. Unless you are okay with setting your loved ones up for unnecessary heartache, confusion, and pain when something happens to you, you need a well-structured estate plan.

What Will the Law Do?

Blended Families, once considered ‘non-traditional’ families are swiftly becoming the norm. Currently 52% of married couples (or unmarried couples who live together) have a stepkin relationship of some kind, and 4 in 10 new marriages involve remarriage. So, clearly, this is no longer ‘non-traditional’ but quite traditional, though our laws about what happens if you become incapacitated or die are still very much based on the traditional nuclear family.

Every state has different provisions for what happens when you become incapacitated or die, and the laws of the state where you become incapacitated or die may or may not match your wishes.

For example, in Colorado, if you are survived by a spouse, your surviving spouse would only receive a part of your estate if you have living children (or parents!), and your living children or parents would receive the rest. And the amount your spouse receives is variable based on the number and ages of your children.

In contrast, in California, all community property assets would go to your surviving spouse, and separate property assets would be distributed partially to a surviving spouse and partially to your children, in amounts depending on the number of surviving children.

In Texas, it can get very complex, depending on whether your assets are separate or community, and whether you have children from the marriage, no children from the marriage, or living parents or siblings.

These are examples to show you that where you die can significantly change the outcome for your family and for your assets, and it may not result in the outcome you want for your loved ones, especially if you have a blended family situation.

So, here’s what you do to make sure that things do go the way you want: call us and schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session. While the session is normally $500, if you do some homework ahead of time (homework that’s going to make sure your family can find everything you have if and when you become incapacitated or die), we’ll waive the Family Wealth Planning Session fee for you, and spend two hours getting to know you, your family dynamics, and your assets, and teach you about the law here in our county and how it would impact your family and your assets in the event of your incapacity or death, so you can ensure that things go the way you want for the people you love.

Even within “traditional” families, aka married parents with families, I want to emphasize that having a full plan is the best way to provide for your loved ones. However, with “blended” families, carefully considered estate plans are even more vital to avoid the massive misunderstanding and conflict that comes with faulty or incomplete plans, and often result in having your assets tied up in court instead of going to the people you want to receive them.

Disputes Between Spouse and Children from Previous Marriage

One of the most common problems that arises in a blended family is that the children from a prior marriage and the surviving spouse end up in conflict. This one is sadly common. Unless a comprehensive plan has been created, it could be very easy for your surviving spouse to cut your kids out completely.

When you’re considering all of these factors for the people you love, it’s important to have a lawyer who can help you look at the reality of what will happen if you become incapacitated or when you die. With the complexities of modern families, it’s better to know than to leave it to the law or a court to provide. That way, not only do the people you love get the assets that you want them to receive, but you may also be saving them from years of legal conflict. Just give us a call and we’ll help you review your options.

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This article is a service of Cris Carter Law, the attorney with heart. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.