What Personal Documents You Need To Keep and For How Long

mainAt this time of the year it is pretty common to start thinking about how to get better organized for next year. An important area to pay particular attention to is all of the paperwork that has piled up during the year.

Depending on the type of documents you have, some you need to keep forever, some you’ll keep for a period of time and some you just need to keep the latest copy. Let’s take a look at the first group that you need to keep a set of paper documents forever:

  • Birth & Death Certificates
  • Social Security Cards
  • Pension Plan Documents
  • ID Cards and Passports
  • Marriage License
  • Business License
  • Any Insurance Policy
  • Wills, Living Wills, any Power of Attorney
  • Vehicle Titles and Loan Documents
  • House Deeds and Mortgage Documents

Anything else that has to do with State or Federal Government matters is worth holding onto forever as well as it can be a real headache to replace these quickly if needed.  The second set of documents are those that you need to keep for some period of time:

  • Tax Records and Receipts (keep for 7 years)
  • Pay Stubs and Bank Statements (keep for a year)
  • Home Purchase, Sale of Improvement Documents (keep at least 6 years after sale of property)
  • Medical Records, Bills and Receipts (keep at least a year after payment in case of disputes
  • Warranty Documents and Receipts (keep as long as you own the item)

One trick we’ve found over the years is to put the Destroy Date on a document when you file it away. It makes it much easier and faster to swap out documents on a periodic basis when a quick glance lets you know if you still need to keep something…

The last group of documents you need to keep just the latest version of for quick reference if needed:

  • Social Security Statements
  • Annual Insurance Policy Statements
  • Retirement Plan Statements (401k, 529, IRA’s etc.)Shredder

Anything else can be disposed of. Important Note: Anything with personal sensitive information (name, address, phone number, SSN or account number should be shredded. This will include some documents you don’t initially think about: ATM receipts, credit card receipts, bills etc. You should also automatically shred an expired credit cards, visas, passports and ID cards. There are lots of affordable cross-cut shredders available at Costco or online at Amazon.

Store you documents in an organized manner for easy access, and looking into a fireproof safe for extra security is a great idea as well. We’ve had two friends lose homes to fire and they both now store their important documents and heirloom jewelry and photos in fireproof safes.




About CarolSawdey

I'm a Broker/Realtor in the San Ramon Valley. A trusted advisor in the local community: We help people buy and sell homes. We counsel them thoroughly. We negotiate to their advantage. We keep their stress to a minimum. And we love what we do!
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