UMB Bank, n.a., of UMB Financial Corporation (NASDAQ: UMBF), provides the following perspective to address best practices for safeguarding personal and financial records in case of disaster or emergency: Preparing for a disaster is a crucial activity - especially for those who live in an area that is prone to natural disasters, such as tornadoes, hurricanes or earthquakes. Many people wisely prepare for these unfortunate events by making an emergency kit filled with non-perishable food, water bottles, flashlights, etc. However, it is just as important to prepare a safe place to keep all important documents, especially personal records and financial documents. There are several options available for safely storing personal and financial documents. Safe deposit boxes can be purchased at local general retail stores, office supply stores and even online. They vary in size and price, so individuals should research before purchasing to ensure needs are met. Home safes can be purchased at the same stores as safe deposit boxes, as well as at hardware stores and big-box retailers. For more options and expert advice, research professional home security retailers and locksmiths as well. Additionally, most banking centers offer bank safe deposit boxes. It’s recommended to select a bank branch that is a significant distance from one’s home to increase the likelihood that the bank will not be affected by the same disaster. If records are kept in a home safe deposit box or home safe, back-up copies of these documents should be located somewhere else, such as in a bank safe or with a relative who lives a significant distance from the individual’s home. Look for a safe, or safe deposit box, that can withstand 1700 degrees. For those who live in an area where tornadoes or hurricanes are more likely, it is also recommended to keep these in the basement. Even if one does not live in an area where these events are likely to occur, it is a good idea to keep a safe or safe deposit box in lowest level of the home in case the floor falls through in the event of a house fire.
Records and documents to place in a safe or safe deposit box can include, but are not limited to:
- Birth, death and marriage certificates
- Divorce and child custody papers
- Adoption papers
- Military records
- Social Security cards
- Copies of drivers’ licenses
- Mortgage/property deeds
- Stock and bond certificates
- Car titles
- List of insurance policies, including the type, company, policy number and name of insured
- Copies of power of attorney, living will and other medical power
- Trust documents
- If records and documents are stored in a portable container, keep it near the disaster supply kit, in case one needs to take them when evacuating.
- Wills should be kept at a lawyer’s office, with several copies stored in different places.
- Write a letter of instruction to family and friends in the event they are required to manage affairs after a disaster. Include locations of important documents and any back-up versions.
- Visit redcross.org to learn about additional emergency preparedness for your personal and financial records.