Becoming a homeowner comes with paperwork. In addition to the documents you need to close your mortgage agreement and take title to your new home, there are a few others you should consider preparing or updating once you move in.
How to Be Prepared for Anything
#1: Have a will. Okay, no one wants to sit down and write a will. However, it creates a legally enforceable set of instructions on how your property, including your home, will be handled in the case of the unthinkable. Whether you are single, married, or a parent, a will eliminates disagreements about how your estate will be divided, your children—if you have any—will be raised, and who will raise them in your place. In situations where two unmarried individuals purchase a home, it also helps ensure that the surviving owner is treated fairly. Without a will, your state of residence makes all decisions—some of which may run counter to your wishes.
#2: Prepare a durable power of attorney. This document allows you to appoint someone you trust as your agent. They can take temporary responsibility for managing your finances and legal matters should you become incapacitated, such as in the case of a surgery or illness. This person can file insurance claims on your behalf and pay bills from your bank account to ensure your mortgage stays current and your electricity remains on until you are well again.
#3: Consider pre- or post-nuptial agreements. More and more couples are adding this fine print to their marriage licenses. The agreements establish how the assets you bring into a marriage— including your real estate holdings, savings, and pets—will be treated during your marriage, and they establish guidelines should the marriage dissolve. Having an agreement just helps lead to a more amicable parting.
#4: Create a family emergency plan. Regardless of where you live, natural events can lead to a disruption in your home life. FEMA recommends every household have an emergency communications plan. At its simplest, this means a prearranged meeting place for family members. Also, the phone numbers of friends and family who can provide temporary shelter, if needed, should be programmed into each family member’s mobile device. Contact information for all family medical providers and insurance information should similarly be shared. Homeowners should also consider off-site storage for copies of documents and photos of belongings and receipts to facilitate the filing any insurance claims in case of loss.
#5: Designate guardians for your children. It’s advisable, especially if you are away from home a lot, to have signed guardianship papers for anyone who you may need to take care of your children in your absence. This allows these caregivers to interact with the local school, arrange for medical care, and transport your children.
There are a number of online resources to help you create drafts of legal documents, or that provide customizable forms you can use, at least temporarily. However, it’s a good idea to have a legal professional finalize your documents to ensure they are written in accordance with the current laws of your state. The following resources can be good starting points as you start to prepare your documents.