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What Documents Are Important And How To Keep Them Safe

Corey Landis -- Despite cloud-based technology, there's no such thing as a "paperless world." Keeping vital print documents safe and hard copies easily accessible can save time and money when proof of identify, ownership, coverage, and more are needed.

While cloud computing, hard drives and scanning have made it easier to keep track of all the paper, files, contracts and correspondence you need -- without the hassle of the actual paper -- it's still necessary to keep hard copies of some documents on hand. For example, you should have a copy of any mortgage documents and notes you've signed for your home. Lenders these days have been known to misplace them. It's also a good idea to keep a copy of all your insurance policies in a safe place that's easily accessed.

Keep your documents safe by having a copy offsite at your office, in a safety deposit box or in a fireproof safe. Believe it or not, the freezer compartment of a frost-free model can store a few documents. The freezer is so well insulated the paperwork will be intact through a fire. It's air tight so won't have water damage. Of course you can always send these papers to your attorney for safekeeping, but that assumes you have an attorney and many individuals don't. Giving the documents to a friend or relative is another option but do you really want to share private information or have them know exactly what kind and amounts of insurance you have? Sometimes the temptation to open a sealed envelope is overwhelming.

Papers to keep include death and birth certificates and marriage licenses. These can be replaced by the issuing agency but it takes time and authorization. Not all states will give a death certificate to anyone who requests it, for instance. You'll need a certified death certificate to collect insurances, close bank accounts and transfer any stocks and bonds or other assets.

Irreplaceable documents include contracts, debt settlement agreements and paperwork where it might be difficult to obtain copies. For example, if you and a debt collector agreed to a certain payment schedule and you misplaced the agreement, the debt collector may say that they never agreed to it in the first place. That leaves you open to a law suit for the full amount of what you owe, not the remaining balance.

Most court documents are in the public domain, so you can get copies if need be, but again it takes time. Courts may charge you a copying fee per page which can add up to a hefty sum.

Income tax statements are available from the Internal Revenue Service, but it's still a good idea to keep your own copies. If you're applying for a loan the lender will most likely ask you to give them permission to obtain copies of your returns directly from the IRS.

As stated earlier a copy of your insurance policy is available from your insurance agent or company. However, having a copy around means you can immediately check what is covered, what the deductibles are and if there are any exclusions.

Decide which documents are important to you and your family and keep them safe.


Corey Landis writes about Life insurance tips and disability insurance. Her hobbies include cooking and gardening.

© 2013 Corey Landis

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The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.