Am I ready for Hurricane Season??... legally speaking

Last August, our area was rocked by Hurricane Harvey. Here, at Dossey & Jones, PLLC, our clients faced issues they had never thought to plan for following Harvey’s destruction. The following are a few questions meant to help you prepare, legally speaking, for the types of problems which could arise with the upcoming hurricane season:

1) Are your legal documents waterproof/being kept high enough where floodwaters cannot reach them?

Unfortunately, many of our clients’ documents were destroyed or lost in the flooding. At the very least, make sure that you have copies of your documents either backed up on the computer or with another family member.

2) Is your home insurance policy up to date?

We had a situation last year where the policy had lapsed on a home, owned by a person who was recently deceased and whose family was initiating probate of the Will. The family realized only days before Harvey that the policy had lapsed, thus, ensuing a scramble to obtain a temporary administration over the estate in the final hours before the hurricane hit to reinstate the policy. Check the policies on your own properties and those of your family members before an emergency.

In addition, know if your home is located in a flood zone which requires additional flood insurance.

3) Have you taken extra precautions for your family members with special needs?

Many of our elderly and special needs clients require oxygen or certain treatments which require electricity. Many areas of our city were without power for over a week. Make sure that arrangements are made to offer an alternative electric source (generator, other family’s home, hotel room, etc.).

4) Are your legal documents in order?

In general, you should review your documents to ensure everything is up to date. With these types of natural disasters, we are inundated with stories of storm-related deaths and horrible accidents.

Also, we witnessed families attempting to handle insurance claims, including FEMA claims, on behalf of their elderly, incapacitated parents. If their parents did not have valid Powers of Attorney in place, families were unable to finish their insurance claims without initiating a guardianship for their parent. Check and make sure your elderly parents have a valid Medical Power of Attorney and Statutory Durable Power of Attorney allowing you the power to make decisions for them.

Several of our elderly clients could not return to their homes following Harvey. Some who might have been diagnosed with early Dementia rapidly declined after the forced change of environment and stress of the hurricane. This caused panic for their families in finding a long-term home for their parents. Many families came to us for emergency Medicaid and long-term care planning. If the client did not have powers of attorney in place prior to their decline into total incapacity, families were forced to seek guardianships and other much more expensive and complicated measures before they could secure a long-term care situation.

At Dossey & Jones, PLLC, our experienced estate planning attorneys can answer your questions and walk you through the process of updating your documents. We care about each of our clients, and we know you want to protect and provide for the ones you love.

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