How to Protect Your Family and Finances from Disaster
Life tends to throw us curveballs when we least expect it. Your spouse is suddenly hospitalized for an extended period of time. A hurricane rips through your local community, destroying your house in its wake. (Around Houston, our memories of Hurricane Harvey are still fresh.) You find out your company is downsizing and you’re on the chopping block.
Whether it’s a natural or financial disaster, we often never see it coming until it’s too late. But thankfully, there are steps you can take to protect your family and your finances from these crises.
How to Protect Your Family
The two biggest ways you can protect your family from a disaster is to make sure you have adequate insurance coverage and a solid estate plan.
When did you last review or update your insurance policies? If you want to stay in tip-top financial shape, review them with a fiduciary financial advisor at least once a year or any time you experience a major life event.
The 4 policies you should review every year are health, home, life and disability insurance.
Health Insurance: There’s a good chance that you already have health care insurance, but could you cover your deductible in an emergency? If not, review your options and see if you can find a plan that better suits your needs. Or, if you know you’ll have major medical expenses next year, like the birth of a child, consider buying a better plan, then switching back when the expected costs have returned to normal.
Home Insurance: Home insurance protects your property in the event of a fire, break-in or natural disaster. If your home has increased in value or you’ve made recent renovations, you may want to bump up your coverage. You’ll also want to make sure your insurance covers any natural disasters that are common to your area. Many people lose their homes only to then find out that they lack adequate coverage to pay for a complete rebuild.
Life Insurance: When you purchase a life insurance policy, you let your family know that they’d be financially OK if something ever happened to you. Many people buy their first life insurance policy when they get a job or get married, but then they fail to update it as their family grows. Take a moment to look over your policy and see if you need to make any adjustments.
Disability Insurance: If you’re injured for some reason and are not able to work for an extended period of time, disability insurance kicks in and provides a steady income. It can take four to six weeks or more to underwrite some insurance policies, so start the application process as soon as possible.
There are many online resources that can help you compare home, health, life and disability insurance. A financial advisor can also help you explore your options.
Planning for your own death can feel awkward and morbid. But if you don’t, the alternative is you pass away without a plan to protect your family and assets after you’re gone. Good estate planning is one of the most loving acts you can do for your family.
There are many moving parts to an estate plan, but the 2 most important parts to focus on are a will and a trust.
A Will: You may think you don’t need a will if you don’t have a huge estate, don’t have kids, aren’t married and so on. But it’s wise for everyone to have one. Whether you’re single or married with kids, someone will settle your financial affairs when you’re gone. Save them a major headache by creating a document that lays everything out for them.
If you have kids, make sure you name a guardian, spell out any wishes you have for them, set up a trust and specify how you want your inheritance to be distributed.
A Trust: A trust is a legal structure that distributes assets to your beneficiaries based on the instructions you give. If you have young children or have concerns that even your adult children cannot responsibly manage their inheritance, setting up a trust can be a great way to protect them from squandering their wealth. Plus, trusts help you bypass the probate process (important in many states), keep your wealth in your family and help ensure you leave behind a lasting legacy.
There are many different types of trusts, so be sure to speak with a financial advisor who can help you determine which is best for you.
How to Protect Your Finances
Your finances likely reside in one of two places – online or at your property. Protecting things that are physically in your care is familiar to most people. Online assets can be more challenging. Keep online assets secure by following these steps:
Securing Offline Documents: Gather your birth certificate, Social Security card, marriage license, will and any other financial documents and keep them in a secure, weatherproof safe. Make sure it has a lock on it and only share the key’s location or password with someone you trust, an attorney and/or your financial advisor.
Routinely shred important documents you no longer need, such as receipts, credit cards, insurance forms, medical statements, old checks and bank statements.
Securing Online Documents: We live in a digital world. Safeguard your financial information by using strong passwords for your financial accounts. Use a secure browser to protect any financial transactions you make online. (Hint: There should always be a lock icon in the URL bar that indicates that your browser is secure.)
If you’re a business owner, consider using a virtual vault to track deposit information and keep your cash secure. These types of vaults help secure important online information, such as Social Security numbers, credit card information and financial receipts.
Don’t share any personal information on social media that could be used to steal your identity. This includes your full name, address, phone number, Social Security number or bank account numbers.
How We Help
Big, negative life events tend to have a more dramatic impact on our finances than positive ones. While we can’t always foresee what’s coming our way, we can take steps now to prepare for the unexpected. Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage and an estate plan to protect your family. Keep your physical and online financial documents protected so you always have access to them.
At Linscomb & Williams, we’ve helped many families establish a contingency plan that accounts for the unexpected. Contact us today to learn more about who we are, what we do and how we can help you protect your family and finances from disaster.