To Toss or Not To Toss

Dated: September 9 2020

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To Toss or Not To Toss

What Are Important Documents?

Important documents are those papers you need to keep around “just in case.” You’ll probably rarely ever need to use them unless a big life event happens, like buying a house, having a baby, changing your name, or making a will. But it’s in those important (but rare) times that you’ll realize you should probably start keeping them somewhere you can find them easily. These documents include:

  • Legal identification documents (these should be kept forever!)
    • Social Security cards
    • Birth certificates
    • Adoption papers
    • Marriage licenses
    • Passports
  • Tax documents (for 7 years)
    • Tax returns
    • W-2s and 1099 forms
    • Any tax-related forms, receipts and records
  • Property records. (for as long as you own the property or the life of the loan)
    • Vehicle registration and titles
    • Mortgage statements, deeds and bills of sale
    • Insurance policies (home, auto, personal property, etc.)
  • Medical records (for one year or until all billing, disputes and finalization of payment has been made)
    • Wills, powers of attorney or living will
    • Medical bills
    • Burial instructions
    • Health insurance policies
  • Finance records (3-7 years or as needed for taxes and tax disputes)
    • Pay stubs
    • Canceled checks
    • Disability or unemployment records
    • Retirement/pension plan records
    • Investment statements
  • Bank Statements (use them to reconcile strange possible suspicious behavior and then SHRED!
  • Utility Bills – (not long usually just one month for things like DMV proof of residence or perhaps one year if you use them for home office deduction
  • Receipts – (Keep them only for tax deductions or on items still under warranty – otherwise SHRED!)

We get it. Filing all the important documents away on that hard drive may seem like the best option—no loose papers, no mess, and no worries. But it’s always a good idea to have a hard copy on hand, filed safely away just in case. You never know . . . hard drives fail or get lost and computers crash. And the next time you move, you might accidentally forget where you packed it. When in doubt, print it out (and keep it filed in a safe place).  Invest in a safe or firebox and some file and labels to keep things clearly marked and organized!  Make sure loved ones or those responsible for your estate know your “hiding” places and how to access locked safes etc.

 

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Lisa Wright

Lisa has lived in the greater Fredericksburg area since 1974 and believes it is one of the top places to live, work and raise a family. She taught in the local school systems and was a career law e....

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