What Documents to Keep, Store or Trash
Some documents are more important than others
Ric Edelman is a nationally acclaimed financial adviser, best-selling author and talk show host and has been providing financial advice to consumers for 25 years. His radio show, The Truth About Money, airs in 50 major radio markets around the country.
Here’s what you need to keep and when you can trash it.
Start by stacking all the paper in one big pile.
Check your drawers (home and work), filing cabinets, folders, boxes, glove compartments, even your safe-deposit box.
Then separate the papers into the five groups listed below.
Keeping these records stored safely, where you and others can find them, can save you time and greatly increases the likelihood that they will not get lost.
If you need help collecting and understanding these documents, contact your financial adviser.
|1. Originals you rarely need||Store in||Shred after||Give copies to|
|Adoption papers||Bank safe-deposit box||Never discard||Executor, lawyer|
|Citizenship papers||Bank safe-deposit box||Never discard||Executor|
|Divorce decree||Bank safe-deposit box||Never discard||Lawyer|
|Lawsuits||Bank safe-deposit box||Never discard||Lawyer|
|Household inventory||Bank safe-deposit box||Never discard||Financial adviser|
|Photos of possessions||Bank safe-deposit box||Never discard||Financial adviser|
|Military discharge||Bank safe-deposit box||Never discard|
|Veteran's papers||Bank safe-deposit box||Never discard|
|2. Originals you sometimes need||Store in||Shred after||Give copies to|
|Birth certificate||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Never discard|
|Cemetery deed||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Never discard||Heir|
|Real estate deeds||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||10 years after property is sold|
|Death certificates||Locked filing cabinet||Never discard||Executor|
|Diplomas||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Never discard|
|Guardianship arrangements||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Never discard||Executor, guardian|
|Health records||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Never discard||Doctor|
|Immunization records||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Never discard||Doctor|
|Marriage certificates||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Never discard||Executor|
|Medical directive||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||New one signed||Doctor, heir|
|Naturalization certification||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Never discard|
|Passports||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Shred after you have replaced|
|Powers of attorney||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||New one signed||Doctor, heir|
|Retirement plan benefits||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Never discard||Financial adviser|
|Social Security card||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Never discard|
|Stock/Bond certificates||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||When sold|
|Vehicle titles||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Vehicle is sold|
|Trusts||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||New one signed||Executor, heir|
|Wills||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||New one signed||Executor, heir|
|3. Other documents||Store in||Shred After||Give copies to|
|College financial aid||Locked filing cabinet||Ten years after loan is repaid|
|Credit report||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||New one arrives||Financial adviser|
|Documentary inventory (this list)||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||You create a new list||Executor|
|Employee benefits||Locked filing cabinet||Change jobs|
|Employee contract||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Change jobs|
|Financial statements||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||New ones drafted|
|Insurance policies/invoices||Locked filing cabinet||A year after replacing policy||Financial adviser|
|Letter of last instructions||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Writing a new one||Executor|
|Loan statements||Locked filing cabinet||Ten years after loan is repaid|
|Passwords||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Change password|
|Property tax assessments||Locked filing cabinet||New one arrives|
|Receipts (items under warranty)||Locked filing cabinet||Warranty expires|
|Receipts (expensive items)||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Item sold or donated|
|Safe deposit box inventory||Fire- and burglar-resistant safe at home||Updated||Executor|
|Social Security statement||Locked filing cabinet||New one arrives||Financial adviser|
|Transcripts||Locked filing cabinet||You complete another course|
|Vehicle registration||Locked filing cabinet||New one arrives|
|Vehicle repairs||Locked filing cabinet||Vehicle is sold|
|Warranties-staple receipts to warranties||Locked filing cabinet||Dispose of item|
|4. Tax documents||Store in||Shred after||Give copies to|
|Bank statements||Locked filing cabinet||Seven years|
|Canceled checks||Locked filing cabinet||Seven years|
|Credit card statements||Locked filing cabinet||Seven years|
|Home purchase/improvement||Locked filing cabinet||Seven years after home is sold|
|Tax return/supporting documents||Locked filing cabinet||Seven years after filing date|
|Form 8606||Locked filing cabinet||Seven years after IRA is liquidated|
|5. Investment documents||Store in||Shred after||Give copies to|
|Annuity contracts||Locked filing cabinet||Annuity paid out||Financial adviser|
|Loan agreements||Locked filing cabinet||Ten years after loan is repaid|
|Pension plan documents||Locked filing cabinet||Never discard||Financial adviser|
|Real estate purchase/improvement||Locked filing cabinet||Seven years after property is sold|
|Investment account statements||Locked filing cabinet||Seven years after last investment held in account is sold|
This article is excerpted from Ric Edelman’s Inside Personal Finance. Ric's firm has won more than 75 financial, business, community and philanthropic awards, and currently manages $7 billion for more than 16,000 clients nationwide. For more about personal finance, visit Ric online at RicEdelman.com. The ideas expressed in this article are solely the opinion of the author, and do not express or imply endorsement of any individual, organization or product.
Copyright ©2012. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.