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Moving Towards Recovery

Recovery After Disaster: The Family Financial Toolkit

Are you looking for resources to help the families you work with to recover financially after a disaster? If so, this resource is for you!

puzzle piece

Putting your financial recovery puzzle together

This Recovery After Disaster: The Family Financial Toolkit is a comprehensive resource that offers strategies and provides tools that can help you (or the families you work with) move along the road towards financial recovery. The tools provided in this toolkit will help you (or the families you work with) make decisions that are best for your family. Use the individual units or the entire toolkit as your situation requires.

Full Versions | Individual Toolkit Units | The Toolkit in Action | Using the Toolkit in Your Community


  • ESP (Epsilon Sigma Phi) North Central Region Distinguished Team Award for Educational Response to Family Financial Situations After Natural Disasters — 2013
  • Florence Hall Award (national) — National Extension Association of Family Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) — September 2012
  • Consumer Financial Information Award (national) — Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE) — November 2011

Full Versions

The toolkit is available in three versions: Minnesota, North Dakota, and non-state specific. If you are a professional or volunteer using the non-state specific version, see Customizing the Non-state Specific Version for Your State.

Individual Toolkit Units

Settling a Property Insurance Claim


Rosemary K. Heins, Extension Educator — Family Resource Management

Reviewed July 2013.

Property owners carry homeowner's insurance to protect themselves from loss when a disaster strikes. Once the claim is being processed, don't be in a hurry to settle your claim. Often, people are so anxious to have their home restored after a disaster, they sign off on a settlement before damages are fully discovered.

Do not settle your claim until:

  • Your property has been thoroughly inspected by an insurance adjustor and repair contractor.
  • Estimate for all damages have been prepared and you fully understand them. You, your insurance adjustor and contractor should agree on needed repairs and estimates.
  • Advance insurance payments have been calculated, deductibles have been applied and you know the total amount of your settlement.
  • You have identified damaged items you are keeping and agree with salvage deductions.
  • You have identified any items that won't be repaired, but for which you will be paid an "appearance loss." An example of this would be hail-damaged siding.
  • And, you and your contractor understand any time limits for repairs, as required by the insurance company. Extensions usually can be granted with advance notice.

One last item of advice, contact a reputable and well-established firm or individual to have your damage repaired. Sometimes undependable workers enter a damaged area, make cheap repairs and leave before the resident discovers the repair was inadequate. Get recommendations and written contracts' for the work.

Don't become a victim again.

Records for a Disaster Insurance Claim


Rosemary K. Heins, Extension Educator — Family Resource Management

Reviewed January 2013 by the author.

With the exception of flooding, most property losses due to a natural disaster are covered by homeowner's insurance. If you have property damage you need to contact your insurance agent to report the loss. The sooner you talk to an agent, the sooner your claim can be filed and an adjuster will look at your damage. Find out when the adjuster will visit.

Protect your property from further damage or theft. Patch roofs temporarily. Cover broken windows with boards or plastic and move household items out of the weather to a safe storage location. Take pictures of the damage beforehand if possible.

Accurate records will help you go through the recovery process. Include a list of all cleaning and repair bills, including materials, cost of rental equipment and depreciation of purchased equipment.

Maintain a list of all disaster-related living expenses, including motel and restaurant bills, home rental and car rental.

List all actual losses, including furniture, appliances, clothing, paintings, artifacts, food and equipment, regardless of your intent to replace the items. Try to document the value of each object lost. Written and videotaped household inventories, bills of sale, check and charge account records and insurance evaluations are good evidence. If you don't have these records, estimate the value and give purchase place and date of purchase.

Photograph damaged property. These pictures can also be used for tax deduction evidence.

Good records save a lot of headaches even when disaster doesn't strike you. But if it does, know what to do that will help you with the insurance claim process.

Income Tax Deductions for Property Loss


Rosemary K. Heins, Extension Educator — Family Resource Management

Reviewed January 2013 by the author.

Dealing with property loss after a disaster, like a flood or tornado, is a challenge. However, property losses from natural disaster are tax deductible. Such deductions, which are allowed for partial or total loss of personal or business property, could greatly reduce the amount of federal income taxes owed for the year the disaster occurred.

If you claim a theft or casualty loss resulting from a disaster you may be asked to show:

  • The kind of disaster and when it occurred;
  • The damage was direct result of the disaster;
  • That you were the owner of the property;
  • For business and rental property, your income tax basis in the property. In general, this is the original cost of the property plus the cost of any improvements before the loss, minus depreciation claimed for income tax purposes.
  • Fair market value before and after the disaster; and
  • Any insurance benefits or other compensation received including free repairs, restoration and clean-up from any disaster relief agencies.
  • Be sure to keep for documentation any before-and-after photographs, receipts from both cash and credit transactions, check and debit card statements, deeds, purchase contracts and professional statements. This is good supporting evidence for casualty claims.

For more details, contact your local tax preparation professional for advice. IRS offices and their website, has more information on casualty losses, too.

Additional Toolkit Resources

Customizing the Non-state Specific Version for Your State — Templates are available for states or agencies within states to customize Unit 9 of the non-state specific version of the toolkit.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Toolkit — Customizing the toolkit for your state, how to distribute the toolkit, and more.

Recovery After Disaster: The Family Financial Toolkit Case Studies (218 K PDF) — Sample case studies to explore how the toolkit can be used with families.

The Toolkit in Action

Recovery After Disaster: The Family Financial Toolkit — An Evaluation of its Efficacy (311 K PDF) — White paper that summarizes the results of an evaluation of the efficacy of the toolkit after its use by North Dakota families affected by floods in summer 2011.

Financial Recovery After Disaster Videos — Engaging educational ideas to use with your other disaster recovery efforts. Based on the Recovery After Disaster: The Family Financial Toolkit.

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