Lone Star Legal Aid is no stranger to disaster recovery. This National Preparedness Month, as the world endures the COVID-19 Pandemic, LSLA focuses on continuing its hurricane preparation education. While it’s important to prepare the physical structure of your home for the elements, it is also important to make sure that your property is ready legally so that you are eligible for FEMA and other recovery related benefits in the event of a disaster.

When creating your emergency kit, make sure you have a place to safeguard important documents, like birth certificates, marriage/divorce papers, adoption records, social security cards/records, passports, driver’s licenses, pet microchip information, financial documents with account information, insurance policy information, estate planning documents, and medical records. These documents should be kept in a container that is safe from fire or water.

Is your property legally ready?

FEMA, the Small Business Administration, the American Red Cross and more, all require that an applicant be legally entitled to their home when applying for disaster recovery benefits.

If you’re unsure whether your property is legally titled to you, you can inquire with the Real Property Records Department in the County that you live in.

How can you make sure that your home is prepared?

  • A Last Will and Testament and/or a Living Will can be prepared to make sure that heirs are ready when disaster strikes should something happen to you. In these documents, you may state who you choose to receive your property in the event of your death or other tragedy.
  • Another document that can be used for this purpose is a Transfer on Death Deed (“TODD”). Unlike a Will, a TODD is a document that only references who will receive a piece of property upon the death of its current owners, and nothing else.

Note: A TODD is one of the forms of documentation accepted by FEMA and other disaster recovery resources when determining eligibility for benefits.

  • A Power of Attorney can also be prepared for use in the event that the homeowner becomes incapacitated or unable to make decisions or direct personal affairs on his/her own. This document will allow the designated agent (the person you appoint to handle your affairs) to pay bills and manage other financial concerns; including applying for disaster recovery benefits.

Note: A POA is a legally binding document, so the individual must be mentally competent to sign it.

More questions on Transfer on Death Deeds? The Transfer on Death Deed Kit provided by TexasLawHelp.org can help!

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, you can call us at (800) 733-8394, at our disaster survivor hotline at (866) 659-0666, or visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org.