By Donna Gehrke-White, Sun Sentinel
May 31, 2011
With hurricane season starting Wednesday, now is the time to start rounding up important documents for safekeeping, including insurance policies and videos or lists documenting what you own.
Cyberspace has made it easier for South Floridians to retrieve scanned documents without worrying about them getting lost or destroyed during a hurricane. That can come in handy if U.S. savings bonds, tax returns, birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports and other essential documents are blown away, lost or destroyed, said Plantation certified financial planner Benjamin Tobias.
There are also free online sites to document your possessions, including jewelry and furniture.
It is important to stash some emergency cash for essentials, Tobias recommended. "Remember that power may be out for a while and credit cards and ATMs will not work,'' he said.
New online services and resources have made it easier for South Floridians to preserve their financial documents. Now, all you really need is your policy number to report an insurance claim, said Lynne McChristian, the Florida representative for the Insurance Information Institute.
The nonprofit Insurance Information Institute provides a free website where consumers can keep a record of what they own. Insurers recommend policy holders list their things or videotape them.
The Internal Revenue Service has disaster loss workbooks for individuals or businesses. "The IRS encourages people to protect tax and financial documents, both personal and professional," Plantation-based IRS spokesman Michael Dobzinski said in an email.
Electronic bank statements and documents can help maintain critical financial records after a storm. and homeowners can scan important tax records such as W-2s, tax returns and other paper documents into an electronic format, he said.
Be sure to back up electronic files and store them in a safe place. It is a good idea to make duplicates and keep them in a separate location. Homeowners should take the time now to alert insurance companies of any news, such as if they have refinanced and have a new mortgage company.
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