In this new era of electronic documentation, there are still some important kinds of paper documents that you should store carefully. Some of these need be kept only as long as they are relevant to tax laws or ownership of homes, vehicles or securities, and others should be kept in a safe place forever.
Originals of the following documents should be kept forever in a fireproof safe or lockbox:
• Birth, adoption and death certificates
• Marriage licenses
• Divorce and custody decrees
• Passports, visas, green cards and citizenship papers
• Military records
• Wills and trusts
• Medical and financial powers of attorney
Documents that must be kept only while you own the asset are:
• Mortgage documents, homeowner insurance policies, receipts for home improvements and other documents relative to your home ownership
• Vehicle titles (pink slips), purchase or lease agreements and vehicle insurance policies
• Warranty certificates, operating instructions and receipts for home appliances and other household items
• Stock certificates and bonds
• Retirement plan records
(These documents should be kept in a fireproof container or safe, as well.)
Documentation for your annual tax returns should be kept for a maximum of seven years. If you are audited during that period, you will need to produce all of your supporting documentation. The IRS now accepts electronic records, so in order to save space and be sure everything is in one place, you can copy your supporting material to a DVD or a thumb drive and store it in your fireproof container.
The Credit Union offers paperless E-statements through Home Banking, which is an alternative way of storing and retrieving your financial data. This electronic service eliminates the need for paper storage of certain kinds of documents and helps to keep your finances secure. Call or drop by your credit union to sign up for these services.
For paper documents you don’t need but which reveal account numbers or other personal financial information, invest in an inexpensive shredder. For documents you may need but don’t want to file, scan them and store them digitally OFF YOUR COMPUTER. Tax-related items and other financial documents should be deleted from your hard drive for security reasons after you have safely stored them elsewhere.
A video or digital record of your valuable household possessions is a good idea for insurance purposes. This record should also be stored in a fireproof location, preferably off-site.