Three Tips for Protecting Your Important Legal Paperwork in a Natural Disaster

By Jen Hoverstad

Year after year, North Carolina continues to be threatened by and experience serious natural disaster. From earthquakes to raging wildfires, to hurricanes like the 500 year Hurricane Florence to today’s Hurricane Dorian, our state, and its people, experiences significant loss by things outside of our control. 

Many of us know firsthand how these acts of nature can devastate our lives and our families, so the question becomes:  how can we prepare?

In addition to creating a disaster preparedness plan for your family, be sure to protect your legal documents during these events. Below are several tips to follow so that you can ensure your important paperwork is safe if your home is damaged or destroyed in a natural disaster:

  1. Back up electronically. Having an electronic backup, such as a secure cloud storage, can be useful. In some circumstances, electronic versions can serve as a legally valid substitute for a paper copy of your important documents.
  2. Use a safe box. The best place to store your important documents is in a fire and water proof safe at home. Another option is to use a safety deposit box at a bank. A bank box can be a hassle for your loved ones if you are incapacitated or after your death, but at least your documents would be safe and accessible. Either a home safe or safety deposit box can protect your important items during a natural disaster so that there is one less thing you need to worry about during a difficult time.
  3. Create a “go” bag. This is useful when you are forewarned about a disaster, because a “go” bag can include all of your family documents, financial paperwork, legal documents, vaccination records, immigration and residency documents, among others safe and close to you. In addition to keeping all of your critical documents safe, make sure to have at least one extra copy in an easily accessible, off-site location and keep them in a sealed plastic bag.

It can be overwhelming to think like this, which is why we provide our Forrest Firm clients the option to store critical estate plan materials in our firm’s fireproof safe. Additionally, we provide a scanned copy of your estate plan on a flash drive.

After disaster strikes, first focus on your family’s safety. After the immediate aftermath is over be sure to replace any damaged or destroyed paperwork as soon as you can. While there may be other more pressing tasks post-natural disaster, do not neglect replacing these documents as it will be incredibly important later on for you and your family.

Jen Hoverstad focuses her legal practice on helping clients plan for life’s unexpected circumstances. You can contact Jen by phone (919) 805-3104 or email