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Important Documents to Keep for Emergencies

Updated on October 3, 2013

Keeping records that are clear and easy is extremely important during a personal emergency. It is important for your financial health, as well as, helping family members know what to do if an emergency occurs.

Young adults think that there is always time to put important papers together, but people are hurt in accidents every day. Do you know if your family members or loved one has someone to act as a Power of Attorney? There are documents that are must haves, those that are nice to have, and those that some of us think we will never need.

Just as a word of caution, choose to entrust this information to someone who is a permanent part of your life and that you trust completely. You might want to inform another person about the plans you have made in case your designated representative is on vacation or out of town.

Probably at least two people should know doctors' names and if you have a living will. Most hospitals now want that information if there has been an unexpected emergency or death.

Consider this a Primer

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is someone who has a legal right to handle affairs for you if you are unable to do so yourself.

  • This does not have to be long term and can be changed from year to year.
  • These documents can come from an attorney, off the Net, or hand-write one if it is witnessed and notarized, if required.
  • The originator of the document can be very specific about what they want someone to do.
  • Do you want them to have Power Regarding Insurance? What about paying bills? Often you have to have a POA just to talk to a credit card company or mortgage company to explain late payments, etc.

Health Care

  • Have you signed the back of your Driver’s License? If you don’t want to donate your organs, you should make sure that someone knows that no matter what you don’t want to donate your organs.
  • What about health care? Do you want someone to be able to see your medical records and make decisions for you about your care?
  • You want to have any medical insurance cards with you, or should let someone know where they are.

Birth Certificate

It is always important to keep a birth certificate or a hospital record. If you have lost or missplaced yours, send to your state capitol for one immediately. The fee is low and takes a couple of days unless you walk in to pick it up yourself.


You need Insurance, even if you are a renter. Take pictures of your household items – especially tech products which are easily stolen and highly valued. Anything you need to replace needs to be included.

Invest in a fire-proof document safe. If there is a house fire, they will be destroyed. If you already have a lock-box at a bank, put the pictures there.


If you own a house, do you have the deed? Where are extra keys? Do you want someone to be able to come into your home to pick up clothes or go through your mail and check for important correspondence?

Wills and Plans

This is the item that most people don’t want to think about, but many people have strong ideas about what type of service/wake/celebration they want and how they want done with their remains.

  • cremation
  • burial - in ground or above ground
  • body donated to science

. Pictures are now an important part of many services. Do you have pictures that you would like shown, or should you reconsider having a new portrait taken. Do you have a favorite poem you want someone to read? Some people still prefer standard religious music while others would prefer to have a mix of favorite songs that are more contemporary mixed with religious song such as a\Amazing Grrace.

There are many options in this category, but this can be a starting point for gathering important documents, and the best thing about this is once it’s completed (and this can be more time consuming than imagined), it only has to be checked once of year. It will be quick and easy, especially if nothing has changed.


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