Monday, August 17, 2009

Paper Records - What to Keep, Why, & When to Toss

We all have many paper items that we don't know how long to keep or where to keep them. I have found the following information on many different web sites to assist you.

The following items should be kept in a safe deposit box or a fireproof, waterproof, burglar-proof home safe—with a list of the contents of the box in your home filing system.

Family Records

Item to keep - Reason for keeping - How long to keep

  • Baptismal and confirmation records - Acceptable evidence of birth date when obtaining a delayed birth certificate; proof of church membership - Keep Indefinitely
  • Copyrights and patents - Proof of ownership rights - Keep Indefinitely
  • Insurance policies: List of policy numbers, name of each insured, beneficiary, company, agent - Reference for kinds and amounts of coverage; provides record of payments and premiums and location of policy; provides record of claims
    - Keep until collected or it expires; or until all claims settled; or when duplicate policies can be easily obtained
  • Passport - Identification required for most international travel - Retain expired passport to satisfy application requirements for a new one, then discard
  • Wills - For reference; essential for settlement of your estate - Keep the original indefinitely in a safe or with an attorney or clerk of district court
  • Abstract for real estate - To prove clear title - Keep until property is sold
  • Automobile title and bill of sale - Proof of ownership - Keep until property is sold
  • Burial lot deed (note number of plots) - Proof of ownership - Keep Indefinitely
  • Deeds and mortgages: Title policy; property insurance policy; mortgage; receipts for payments on mortgage. Record day, month, and year you acquire or sell property; gross sale price; depreciation; legal fees & expense of sale - For income tax and estate tax purposes; keep records of improvement to compute capital gains or losses - Keep until property is sold
  • Household inventory: Appraisals, photos/videos of valuables - Insurance claims - Update these annually. Dispose when you no longer own item
  • Property easements - Proof of use rights - Keep until property is sold

Financial Records

Item to keep - Reason for keeping - How long to keep

  • Contracts, notes, debts: Promissory notes, mortgages, liens, installment contracts, and chattels - Evidence of collectible or payable debts; status for estate settlement - Keep until estate is settled
  • Household inventory: Description of article, date purchased, and purchase price - For insurance settlement - Keep up-to-date as you dispose of or add new items
  • Investment certificates: Stocks, bonds, CDs, real estate - Proof of purchase - Keep after redemption amount received and taxes are settled on gain or loss

Legal Records

Item to keep - Reason for keeping - How long to keep

  • Birth certificate (certified copy or original) - Proof of birth - Keep Indefinitely
  • Death certificates - Proof of death for Social Security benefits and estate settlement
    - Keep until benefits are secured and estate settled; note cause of death for family health history
  • Marriage records - For proof of marriage to collect insurance, Social Security, and veteran’s federal benefit pension compensations; to settle estate - Keep until all claims are settled, benefits are received, and estate is settled
  • Divorce decree - To clear legal requirements for remarriage - Keep Indefinitely
  • Adoption papers - To prove ages to start to school; for obtaining birth certificates for some jobs; to obtain driver’s license; for marriage license; for registering to vote; to qualify for Social Security benefits; to obtain passports; to determine estate heirs - Keep Indefinitely
  • Military service: Service record; summary of benefits - To qualify for retirement, insurance, medical, education, and other benefits (recommend that county or city clerk create additional official record of discharge certificates) - Keep Indefinitely
  • Citizenship and naturalization papers - To obtain certain types of jobs; to obtain passport; prove eligibility to vote - Keep Indefinitely

The following records should be kept at home in your home office files.

Family Records

Item to keep - Reason for keeping - How long to keep

  • Education records/diplomas - Proof of attendance and degrees - Keep Indefinitely
  • Employment records - To determine retirement benefits or if there is a worker’s compensation claim - Keep last official announcement earned benefits; keep record until all worker’s compensation claims are settled; keep beyond retirement in case you decide to re-enter the workforce
  • Insurance policies: Automobile; personal liability; homeowner’s or renters; life; health; disability - Reference for details of coverage - Keep until property is sold or policy expires and until all claims are settled. Review annually. Until policy expires or is redeemed.
  • Licenses to practice (copy) - To verify credentials - Keep displayed; replace with most recent verification; keep copy in a safe place
  • Family advisers: Names, addresses and telephone numbers - Ready reference when need (medical, legal, etc.) arises - Keep updated when changes are made
  • Medical history: Immunizations, operations, illness, medications, etc. - Reference - Keep Indefinitely on all family members; update often
  • Funeral plan documents - Reference - Keep Indefinitely; update as needed
  • Record of Important Papers - Reference - Keep Indefinitely; update as needed
  • Subscriptions and buying clubs: Titles with order & renewal dates; membership details -
    Reference - Keep until subscription expires; handle complaints or cancellations
  • Organizational memberships - Reference - Keep until membership is dropped
  • Keys (labeled) and safe combination safe-deposit box, car, house, home safe - Access as needed - Keep until property is sold or when safe-deposit box is relinquished

Property Records

Item to keep - Reason for keeping - How long to keep

  • Automobile: Certificate of title and bills of sale - Essential for transfer to new owner when car is sold - Keep until car is sold or disposed of
  • Guarantees and warranties - For proof of date of purchase; to determine service and parts guaranteed - Keep until no longer valid
  • Household inventories: Record item, cost and date of purchase or sale - For insurance claims to establish values; net worth statements. Pictures of items are helpful when making claims. - Keep list up-to-date as you dispose of or add household items; make a copy also for safe-deposit box
  • Appliance and other manuals - For reference on use and care - Keep until sold or discarded
  • Pets: Pedigree; health and license records - Identification - Keep until death or sale

Financial Records

Item to keep - Reason for keeping - How long to keep

  • Account books: Goals, spending plan, record of income and expenditures - For reference and comparison; used to determine net worth and make changes in income and spending patterns - Keep to show a profit or loss over multiple years
  • Checking accounts: Number, location, and canceled checks or photocopy pages of checks
    List all account numbers with addresses, phone numbers - Save checks needed for income tax deductions and proof of important payments - Keep for a minimum of at least six years of checks
  • Credit card information: Names, addresses and phone numbers of issuing companies; card numbers - Purchase of items on credit; use of card and payment of balances due can give you a good credit rating - If card is not in current use, cancel by writing to company; if lost or stolen, notify company immediately by phone
  • Housing records: Improvement receipts, lease/rental agreement copies, utility deposit receipts, mortgage payments, property tax records - Compute capital gains/losses; income tax basis in residential replacements - Keep records until property is sold
  • Receipts and receipted bills -Proof of payment. For charge accounts— if they are tax deductible; proof of value on insurance claims. - Keep credit card receipts until bill is paid; keep larger item receipts while items are in your possession
  • Safe-deposit box inventory - Information for family members - Revise list annually
  • Financial institution monthly statements and/or savings pass books - Reference for completed transactions: Deposits and withdrawals - Keep account locations and numbers in safe-deposit box for a minimum of a year
  • Income tax returns: Federal and state (if applicable) returns with substantiating records -
    Verification of taxes paid - Keep for 3 years minimum for possible IRS audit; 6 years if 25% of gross income is omitted; unlimited if there has been a fraudulent report
  • Investments: Copies of mutual funds, stocks, bonds, real estate, CDs, etc.
    - Statement of earnings and transactions as reference information - Keep initial and current investment quarterly statements
  • Retirement records: Employee pensions, annuities, Keoghs and IRAs
    - For reference; proof of employer-employee contributions, payments and benefits received or payable - Keep until fund is exhausted

Legal Records

Item to keep - Reason for keeping - How long to keep

  • Living will (original with additional copies made) - For reference specifying your end-of-life care; instructions to your doctor and other health care providers (i.e., hospital, nursing facility, hospice, or home health agency; instructions for close family members) - Keep a list of where copies are distributed to be able to provide most recent copy if changes are made; don’t store in a safe-deposit box that may be difficult to access without the patient’s permission
  • Durable power of attorney: Specify the extent of power delegated to one or more persons: generally, for health care, and for financial decisions - Gives others the power to make health care and/or business decisions when you are no longer able to make decisions on your own - Replace by latest version if changes are made
  • Personal representative and guardian appointments - For official notification of agent to settle estate and provide care of children under legal age - Keep until official duties are completed
  • Social Security card - Needed to apply for benefits; identification number needed on many types of applications and records - Keep Indefinitely

Papers to Carry with You
(Make a copy of these for your home file)

Item to carry - Reason for carrying

  • Credit and/or electronic banking cards - Identification and to pay for or charge purchases; to make other transactions
  • Driver's license - Identification and evidence of legal eligibility to drive
  • Auto insurance card - To identify issuer in case of accident
  • Donor card - To donate body organs and to donate body to medical school or training program for use in medical education or research
  • Medical information: Blood type, allergies, diseases (such as diabetes, heart disease, epilepsy) - Emergency treatment.
  • Health insurance card (Medicare and/or other) - Identification to use during hospital admittance
  • Personal identification: Name, address, and phone for yourself and friend or relative contact - Identification, especially in case of emergency
  • Doctor's names - Notification in case of emergency
  • Organization membership cards - Identification and proof of membership

I hope this comes in handy!

Marlin

3 comments:

rosie said...

Great article. Lots of good statistical information found right there. Interesting to see how much all those big blogs are making...................



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