Thousands of people who have lost homes in the California wildfires discovered too late that their insurance coverage had not kept up with the rising cost of lumber, labor and other rebuilding materials. Talk to your insurer to make sure you have enough coverage, but for a quick reality check, ask a local contractor how much it costs to build per square foot and multiply that by your home’s size.
One of the most painful post–disaster tasks is compiling an inventory of possessions so you can seek reimbursement for the contents coverage. It’s far easier to put the list together beforehand.
Here are other tips for shoring up your finances:
- Safeguard your documents: Keep a copy of your will, trust, birth and marriage certificates, Social Security cards, insurance papers, medical information, most recent tax return, receipts for high ticket items and other important documents in a safe deposit box. You can also scan and save them to a DVD or flash drive, which you can give to a trusted friend or family member outside the region. Another option is to save them in the cloud.
- Break out the camera: Your insurance will pay for everything you lost—up to your policy limits—as a result of a covered “peril,” such as fire or windstorm. To get reimbursed for your personal belongings, most companies require a detailed inventory of every item lost, although some will advance a portion of your contents coverage without this list. While your house is still standing, use an online inventory or app or print a blank one from the California Department of Insurance or consumer group United Policyholders. Store it away from your home or better yet, in the cloud. At the very least, take photos or videos of everything in your home, including the inside of drawers, cabinets and closets.