DES MOINES, IA (MARCH 22, 2012) — Whether you live in the Midwest, the Deep South or on the West or East Coast, storm season and the increased threat of tornados, floods, hurricanes and wildfires is quickly approaching. In fact, residents of Alabama, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Missouri have been struck by natural disaster already this year when tornados ravaged the states this month. ARAG®, a global provider of legal solutions, reminds consumers to protect their legal documents for disaster, in addition to their loved ones and property.
According to the National Weather Service, the United States is impacted every year by an average of 10,000 thunderstorms, 2,500 floods, 1,000 tornadoes and 10 hurricanes. Natural disasters wreak havoc on residents and their livelihood as victims struggle with housing issues, insurance concerns and unemployment. Storing legal papers in a safe place so they are readily accessible can help recovery efforts in the wake of a disaster.
“Safeguarding your family, home and business to reduce damage if disaster strikes is your first priority,” said Ann Cosimano, General Counsel at ARAG. “Your legal documents, however, are important parts of your property and deserve attention in preparation as well.”
Listed below, ARAG provides a complete inventory of documents to be safeguarded from disaster.
• Birth Certificate or Adoption Certificate
• Passport Social Security Card Marriage
• Certificate Divorce Decree
• Military Discharge or Military ID
• Loan documents Insurance Contracts – life, health, home, auto (Include pictures or videos for insurance claims)
• Deeds Titles to Property Financial Statements (Retirement, Investments, Savings)
• Living Will
• Power of Attorney
• HIPAA documents
• Trust Name Change (if applicable)
• Letter of Instruction Naturalization Papers
After you’ve identified the papers to protect, how do you shield your important legal documents when the entire region is at risk of tornados and flooding? ARAG suggests electronic storage.
“If a disaster hits you, most likely it will hit your safety deposit box at the bank and file room at your attorney’s office, too,” said Cosimano. “Scan documents into computer files and store them in reliable out-of-area storage, or email them to a friend outside the disaster zone. In most situations, courts treat electronic copies of lost documents as evidentiary equivalents of originals.”
You can take additional steps to protect documents you store electronically. For example, make sure computers are above flood levels and moved away from windows. Back up files routinely and store your back-up copies in a secure location away from your home. Check into subscription services that allow you to back up information online for a fee.
A complete list of documents to safeguard and tips to protect those papers, as well as information on your legal rights in the aftermath of a natural disaster, is outlined in the ARAG guidebook “Legal Issues Surrounding Natural Disaster” now available for a short time for consumers to download for free.
Enrolling in a legal plan offers convenient access to a nationwide network of attorneys and legal resources, and can help protect you during desperate situations. These types of plans, which are offered by providers like ARAG, give members peace of mind knowing that they’ll have immediate access to professional services and resources when a legal need arises.
Legal plans often cost less than a roadside assistance membership and are usually offered through employers or organizations, although some options are also available to individuals. To find out more about how legal plans work, visit www.ARAGgroup.com.
ARAG, whose North American operations are based in Des Moines, IA, is a global provider of legal solutions. The company has an international premium base of nearly $2 billion and it protects 15.5 million individuals and their families — worldwide. ARAG empowers individuals to protect their families, finances and future by providing outstanding service and meaningful relief for everyday legal issues.
Jen Harken, ARAG Corporate Communications Manager
515-237-0271 or Jen.Harken(at)ARAGgroup.com