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It’s best to prepare before emergency strikes

Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM

Originally published: December 18, 2006

The holiday season is certainly not the time you’re thinking about worst-case scenarios. But accidents do happen, and they don’t respect the season. When the unexpected serious event happens, even the most responsible people can panic. So here’s a checklist of potential crises -- and some Savage Solutions for you to implement. Preparation trumps panic. Consider the possibilities and ask yourself: Are you prepared?

**What if your wallet were stolen? Would you know how to protect your identity, re-establish credit, and act quickly?

SAVAGE SOLUTION: The first step is to remove all unnecessary items from the wallet you carry every day. A few credit cards and your driver’s license should be enough. Make a photocopy of your driver’s license, insurance card and any other identification. Try to eliminate carrying any cards such as insurance or Medicare cards that include your Social Security number. If you carry family photos, make a copy so a precious memory isn’t lost forever.

Then sit down and make a list of the remaining cards, including the card issuer, the account number, the ID code on the back of the card and, most importantly, the issuer’s toll-free number printed on the card or on your monthly statement. Make a copy of that list for home and office. Then if your wallet is stolen, you’ll be able to immediately contact the issuers to cancel your card. Or you can sign up for a credit-monitoring service that will do this job for you.

Then take one more step: Contact each of the three credit bureaus and put an immediate “freeze” on your account so no one can open up new credit in your name. You can reach each bureau directly by going to

**What if you were seriously injured in an accident, or even lost your life in an instant? Would your family know how to find your important financial papers, where your money is invested, your will or estate plan?

SAVAGE SOLUTION: This holiday week is the perfect time to organize your financial filing system, and then make a list of instructions for your family in case of a life-ending emergency.

Tell your family where you’ve left these instructions in a large sealed envelope. In that envelope you’ll enclose a copy of your will or revocable living trust. If you have signed your driver’s license to be an organ donor, that should be on top of the pile.

You can leave a letter with burial instructions and your cemetery deed. If you are a veteran, leave those documents, as well, to lower the cost of your funeral. Make a list of your bank, mutual fund, brokerage and retirement accounts, the account numbers and contact phone numbers. You don’t have to disclose all your assets -- just their location. In a period of shock and grief, you’ll have done a great service to those who love you.

**What if your parents -- or you -- suffer a stroke or injury requiring ongoing assistance? When the immediate emergency passes, where would you find care assistance?

SAVAGE SOLUTION: You’ve already purchased long-term care insurance. Now you’re about to see a great side benefit. Every major company offers assistance in guiding you through the use of the policy benefits. An ombudsman or concierge will help you locate in-home health care or a private nursing home. If you live in a different city or state, they’ll assign a case worker to follow up to make sure the care is being given in an appropriate manner.

I’ve written a lot about the financial burdens of long-term custodial care, but the immediate emotional burden of actually finding care can be a huge one.

Of course, every local government has, or is developing, a department to deal with aging issues, in recognition of the growing public demand for these services. And if you need legal help, two Web sites will help you find specialists in eldercare law. They are: www.elderlawanswers.c om and (The National Association of Elder Law Attorneys).

Whether it’s the financial planning detailed here, or simply a discussion of where the family would gather, phone or check in during an emergency, you’ll have more peace of mind knowing you’ve made a plan. And that’s The Savage Truth.

Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser. Check out Terry’s answers to reader questions at, and click on Business. Distributed by Creators Syndicate.

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