by Tina Seymour Demoran

It’s that time of the year, my friends. Hurricane season. Last week, my column focused on ensuring your elderly family members (or you, if you are elderly or disabled) have a communication plan in place in the event of a hurricane or other disaster.

This week, I want to focus on everyone… As we, the MS Gulf Coast residents, begin to stock our shelves with staples, supplies, pull out the generators and fill the gas tanks, we need to ask these questions:

· Are my legal and financial papers in order?

· Do I have everything organized and ready to go if we need to evacuate?

· Do I have a plan in place to ensure that my kids/parents/grandparents have a way to get in touch with me if we are separated during an emergency?

I hear the horror stories from Katrina often in my estate planning seminars and in my one-on-one meetings with clients:

· Loss of important documents and photos. · Loss of contact with loved ones after the hurricane passed.

· Lack of sufficient evidence to ensure that the insurance company knew what was lost and could attach a value to it for reimbursement.

I myself remember how hard it was to make the initial contact with my loved ones after the storm…and in the days that followed the hurricane.

Yes, I’ve been there, both personally and professionally. A former compliance director with over ten years’ of compliance and risk management experience, I literally helped write, and keep updated, the hurricane plans, the disaster plans, and the emergency plans for over 25 different locations, from schools, shelters, inhouse medical centers, nursing homes, durable medical equipment companies, and outpatient clinics.

I’ve trained employees, both my own and other company’s…how to handle disaster situations…how to plan ahead and how to recover from disasters. I’ve assisted families with private planning.

This is my main focus: ANY PLAN is better than no plan at all. Lack of planning is the worst thing you can do when it comes to disasters. You need to make the time, before the disaster occurs, to ensure that your family is ready for that disaster situation.

Make sure that, at a minimum, you have:

· a current and up-to-date communication plan for your family and friends

· a packed and ready “go kit” for evacuations–not just emergency supplies, but your important papers (see last week’s column for this list)

· a plan in place for emergency situations regarding elderly or disabled family members

· photos and video evidence of your belongings to assist in insurance claims, and

· a plan for recovery, both financially and with your family, after an emergency or disaster occurs. Other things to consider….that you have basic legal documents in place to ensure that you, your family, and your assets are protected in the event you become incapacitated or do not survive a disaster.

Depending on your circumstances, these items could include: · will · trust · special needs trust · powers of attorney · advance directives Don’t hesitate to ensure your plan is in place. Take the time NOW to sit down with your family, your financial advisor, and your attorney and establish a plan that will allow you to recover. Don’t wait until it’s to late to answer that basic question: Are You Ready for Hurricane Season?

If anyone would be interested in the Blue Jean Lawyer and her crew coming out and giving a free on-site hurricane preparedness seminar for them, just give us a shout through email or (228)224-6781. Thanks y’all & stay safe out there!