Emergencies can strike without warning, leaving us vulnerable if we haven't taken the necessary precautions. That’s why emergency preparedness is so important.
Safeguarding your vital documents is also a crucial part of emergency preparedness because it helps us make sure that we can navigate any unexpected situation with a sense of control and security, knowing we have all the information and documentation we need to get through it.
This article will go through emergency preparedness in Canada, including how to get organized, what to prepare, and making sure your essential documents are safe no matter what.
What Should You Include in Your Essential Documents Folder
An Essential Documents Folder is your personal emergency toolkit, organizing critical documents like your will, insurance policies, and identification so that in times of crisis, you or your loved ones can access vital information with ease and clarity.
The following is an in-depth look into these recommendations for your essential documents folder.
When personal identification documents like passports, birth certificates, or social insurance cards are lost, it can impede your ability to access various services, conduct official transactions, or prove your identity when necessary. This can cause significant inconvenience and potential disruptions in your daily life. To be safe, include these documents in your essential documents folder.
Your passport or permanent resident card, driver's licence, health card, and other government-issued identification are indispensable forms of ID and are necessary documents for international travel and living in Canada. Keep them secure in your essential documents folder to make them easy to access when needed.
Your birth certificate serves as proof of identity and is often required for various legal processes. Safeguarding the original document is crucial, as it forms the basis of your official identity.
Social Insurance Number (SIN) Card
Your SIN card is required for work, taxes, and government benefits. Make sure it's safely stored within your essential documents folder to avoid any issues related to identity verification.
If you're married, your marriage certificate is a critical legal document that confirms the validity of your marriage.
If applicable, make sure you have all adoption papers securely stored. These documents serve as evidence of the legal adoption process and are vital for establishing parental rights.
The loss of crucial legal documents such as wills, powers of attorney, or property deeds means that executing your intended wishes or resolving legal matters can become an arduous and time-consuming process, often requiring extensive legal intervention. If you have a will but it cannot be found, the court may regard you as having died intestate.
But remaking your will and power of attorney documents doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, Willful was created for exactly that purpose: to make estate planning easy, accessible, and affordable.
Here are the legal documents you should keep in your essentials document folder.
Your will outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets and personal matters after you pass away. Keep this important estate planning document in a secure location within your essential documents folder to make sure your final wishes are executed as intended. If you live in British Columbia, you can avoid having to store this document physically if you make a digital will.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to make a will in Canada.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney document designates someone to make decisions on your behalf in case you become incapacitated. Whether you have just a power of attorney for property, a power of attorney for personal care, or both, you’ll want to keep these documents readily accessible in your essential documents folder for any unforeseen situations.
Include any other legally binding agreements or contracts you have in your possession. These documents may include rental agreements, purchase contracts, or any other important paperwork.
List of Medications
Keep a list of any medications you're currently taking, including dosages and frequencies. This information will help medical professionals provide appropriate care for you and your family in case of an emergency.
Maintain a record of any known allergies or adverse reactions to specific medications, foods, or environmental triggers. This can be lifesaving information during medical treatment.
Medical Equipment Information
If you rely on specific medical equipment, include detailed instructions on how its used, maintenance, and any emergency protocols associated with it.
Gather all property-related documents, including homeowner or rental insurance, property deeds, mortgage papers, and lease or rental agreements. These documents serve as proof of ownership and are key for any legal or financial transactions related to your property.
Include your vehicle insurance, registration and title within your essential documents folder. These documents are vital for proving ownership and managing any legal issues related to your vehicle in cases of emergency or otherwise.
Photos for Insurance Claims
Take and store photographs of valuable possessions for insurance claims. In the event of damage or loss, these photographs serve as evidence of your belongings and can expedite the insurance claim process.
Losing financial documents like insurance policies, bank account information, or investment records can result in financial setbacks as well. Rebuilding your financial portfolio or navigating through insurance claims without the necessary documentation can lead to delays, disputes, and potential financial losses. Add these documents to your folder to keep them safe.
List all your bank accounts and include the contact information of your financial institutions. This information is necessary for managing your finances and accessing funds during emergencies.
Retirement and Investment Accounts
Also, keep detailed records of your retirement savings and other investment accounts if you have any.
Credit Card Information
Make a list of your credit card accounts and include contact numbers for quick reporting in case of loss, theft, or fraudulent activities. This ensures you can take immediate action to protect your finances in emergencies.
If you have pets, keep all documents proving ownership in your essential documents folder. These documents are needed for establishing legal ownership and responsibility for your beloved pets should you need to do so.
Maintain up-to-date records of all your pets' vaccinations and medications. These documents help to ensure your pets' health and compliance with legal requirements for pet ownership.
Include any registration, identification tags or microchip information for your pets. These identification measures are crucial for locating and identifying your pets in case they get lost during emergencies.
Contact Information for Important People
Maintain an updated list of your healthcare providers, including primary care physicians, specialists, and any other medical professionals you regularly consult.
Relatives and Friends
Keep a detailed list of all immediate family members, close friends, and emergency contacts. Having this information readily available ensures you can reach out for support and assistance when needed.
Creditors and Utilities
Maintain contact information for all your financial institutions, lenders, and utility providers so you can manage your financial obligations and address any issues related to payments and services during emergencies.
Other Essential Contacts
Include contact information for any other people who are important to your personal or professional life. This may include legal representatives, financial advisors, or other key individuals you may need to contact in case of emergencies.
By carefully organizing and categorizing your essential documents, you can make sure that you have everything you need to navigate emergencies effectively and efficiently. Regularly review and update your essential documents folder to reflect any changes in your personal, financial, or medical circumstances.
Steps to Protect Your Essential Documents
Now that you’ve got your documents together, what should you do? Here are some recommended steps on how to protect documents in cases of emergency.
1) Make Copies
The first step in protecting your essential documents is to create copies of each document. Make sure that the copies are clear, legible, and comprehensive. In the case of legal documents such as a will or power of attorney, know that if you do make any copies, only the original signed documents are legally valid.
Use a high-quality scanner or camera to create digital copies and a reliable photocopying machine for physical documents. While making copies is not mandatory, it serves as a crucial backup in case the original documents are damaged, lost, or destroyed during emergencies.
2) Store Copies in a Safe Location
To maximize the security of your documents, consider storing them somewhere that is both safe and not too difficult for you to access. Here are some recommended safe storage options:
In the House
- Safe: Invest in a high-quality, fire-resistant safe to store physical copies of your essential documents at home. Choose a safe that is both durable and spacious enough to accommodate all your important paperwork. Remember to store it out of flood range, and ideally above-grade in your home or apartment.
- Fire-Resistant Storage: Use fire-resistant storage boxes or fireproof bags for additional protection. These specialized containers are designed to withstand high temperatures, ensuring that your documents remain intact even in the event of a fire or extreme heat.
Outside the House
- Legal Representative: Entrust copies of your documents to a trusted lawyer or legal representative. They can securely store these documents in their office or a secure facility, providing you with an offsite backup option.
- Bank Safety Deposit Box: Consider renting a safety deposit box at your bank to store physical copies of your documents offsite. Safety deposit boxes offer a high level of security and protection against various threats, including theft and natural disasters.
- Cloud Storage: Use cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Microsoft OneDrive to store digital copies of your essential documents. Ensure that the cloud service you choose offers robust security features, such as encryption and multi-factor authentication, to protect your documents from unauthorized access.
- Hard Drive: Store digital copies of your documents on an external hard drive. Choose a high-capacity, reliable hard drive and keep it in a secure location to prevent physical damage or theft.
- Email: Send copies of your documents to a designated, secure email account. Make sure that the email account is password-protected and that you use strong, unique passwords to minimize the risk of unauthorized access.
- Storing Digital Wills: If you’re in British Columbia, you also have the option of storing your digital will online, which can help protect it from damage via natural disasters, mishandling, or other external factors.
3) Making Sure Family, Loved Ones, and Executors Know Where Copies Are
In addition to securing your document copies, you should let your trusted family members, loved ones, or designated executors know where they are. Clear communication is key to ensuring that your family can get access to necessary documents when they need to.
For your estate planning documents, take advantage of the Canada Will Registry. This registry allows law firms and individuals to register wills and other important estate planning documents in a single online database. It also provides a free virtual vault!
By registering your documents with the Canada Will Registry, you can make sure that your designated individuals have easy access to your critical documents when needed, providing an additional layer of security and peace of mind. While there is normally a $40 fee for registering a will on the Canada Will Registry, when you make a will with Willful you can register your will for free.
It’s Best to Be Prepared
In an unpredictable world, being prepared isn't just a smart approach; it's a necessity. Prioritizing preparedness means safeguarding your family's future to be more disaster-proof.
By making an emergency kit, creating comprehensive emergency plans, organizing essential documents, and fostering open communication, you empower yourself and your loved ones to face uncertainties with confidence and peace of mind.
Platforms like Willful help you prepare for the unexpected by , making estate planning accessible and straightforward whether you're making your will for the first time, updating it, or remaking it after losing the previous version.
Embracing the importance of preparedness today is the key to a secure and confident tomorrow.