|Protecting your finances after disaster
If you find yourself facing cleanup after a hurricane
or tornado has ripped through your neighborhood, the task can be
truly daunting. One hopes all your preparations
in the event of a disaster will come in handy for cleanup. Here
are the essential steps to take to preserve your home, your bank
accounts and sanity when cleaning up after a disaster.
1. Contact your insurance
Notify your insurance company or agent as soon as possible after
the storm to advise them of your loss and to let them know you will
be making a claim. It's too early to make any specific dollar claims
at this time. Your insurance company will assign an adjuster who
will either be an insurance company employee or an independent adjuster
hired by the company. The adjuster will advise you of the steps
you need to take to file your claim and will provide you with any
2. Inventory your loss
Write down everything you lost and begin to collect written records
of the loss. This is where your home inventory, if you made one,
can be invaluable. If you don't have the inventory, one way to begin
to reconstruct lost records is by sifting through catalogs or walking
through store aisles to help to establish a value for lost items.
Check with friends or relatives who may also have pictures of your
property. Go around your property and take photos of the damage.
3. File your claim
Generally speaking, the sooner you file your claim the better. But
you don't want to file until you're sure your claim is complete.
You want to be sure you've reconstructed
your loss as accurately as possible. You want to avoid settling
a claim and then realizing later you left out significant property.
4. Settle your claim
You may not want to jump on your insurance company's first offer.
"Insurance companies are paying a lot
more attention to the claim side of the business," says Stewart
H. Welch III, a certified financial planner and author of "Estate
Planning for Baby Boomers and Retirees."
"They are much more tuned
to their bottom line than they were in the '80s. It's the claims
adjuster's job not to give you more money than they have to."
Before settling on a figure, try
to secure two or three estimates of what needs to be done and how
much it will cost.
"You need to educate yourself
with a firm estimate of what the repairs will cost instead of accepting
the first offer right off the bat. This will give you a feel for
what your actual costs may be and you can use it as a guide in negotiating
with your claims adjuster," says Welch.