May 31, 2009

Hurricane Season Starts Today

Every Florida resident knows what June 1 means: The beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season. After being relentlessly battered by storm after storm in 2006, we've had a relatively quiet two years. But folks, I'm an estate planning and elder law attorney. I'm all about planning. My view is that you hope for the best but plan for the worst. That kind of thinking lets you sleep at night.

Some of you may know that in a prior life I was an insurance adjuster. I've met lots of people whose lives were turned upside down in a matter of seconds by the unlikeliest of events. The outcome is always better if you're prepared.

How likely is a hurricane in 2009? Well, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration currently projects a 70% chance of having 9 to 14 named storms. Four to seven could become hurricanes. One to three of those could be major hurricanes (category 3 or higher). Yes, we may squeak by without a problem. But we may not. So, preparation is key.

If a hurricane threatens, make sure your documents are protected. While your will needs to be kept safe, remember that that's a death instrument. During this time it's your life planning documents that should most concern you. These documents include your advance directives like your health care power of attorney, your living will, your durable power of attorney, and if you have one, your revocable trust. The originals must be kept in a safe place. A safe deposit box is one good place. If you don't have a safe deposit box, put your originals in a high place in your home, in a watertight and fireproof container. Someone who lives out of the area and out of the hurricane zone should also have a copy of your documents, just in case something happens to the originals.

If you have to evacuate, take copies of your documents with you. Don't forget to take the pertinent information about your homeowners, flood, wind and health insurance policies, too. The name of your carrier, policy number and contact information should be kept on you.

For all the other preparations you'll need to make, there are a variety of excellent preparation guides. Check out the advice from the American Red Cross or the National Hurricane Center.

Here's hoping 2009 proves to be an uneventful hurricane season for Floridians. Take care!

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