Do you know where your valuable papers are?

Managing value papers and documents will give you peace of mind and save time.

Each of us has valuable papers that we need to keep protected for a number of reasons. Many of these documents are difficult, if not impossible, to replace. With the increased threat of identity thief, natural disasters, fire and burglaries, it is extreme important to store them in a safe and secure location. It would be very difficult to remember or identify exactly what was lost. If you could remember it would take a long time to replace the lost documents. Consequently, it is much better to protect valuable papers then to replace them.

Valuable papers are documents which you may need during your lifetime for various reasons. For example, a birth certificate is used to prove your age when obtaining a driver’s license or passport. Other possibly necessary documents are birth, marriage and death certificates, deeds, leases, contracts, wills, insurance policies, military papers and social security cards/documents.

These important papers should be sorted into two files. Some need to be on your person, such as your driver’s licenses. Others need to be stored in safe and secure locations that are theft-proof and fire proof such as a home safe or bank safe deposit box. 

If your household chooses to go with a home safe or fireproof file, it should be able to withstand interior heat of 125 to 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes.  Also be strategic on where you store the safe.  It needs to located for accessibility but difficult for a burglar to find. Safe deposit boxes are for rent with your local bank or credit union. This rental cost is a small compared to the possible loss that could occur. If you use the box to store stocks, bonds or other investment-related documents you may be able to use the rental fee as a deduction on your federal income taxes.

If you choose to rent a safe deposit box, make sure you create an inventory list of what is in the box and store in a safe place at home. Also remember to keep the list up to date. Check with your homeowner’s insurance coverage of your safe deposit box and also check the agreement you have signed with the bank/credit union for any limitations on protection. Last and importantly, keep family members informed about the location of the safe deposit box, the number and the location of the keys to the box.

Michigan State University Extension has additional resources at the MI Money Health website on getting your financial papers organized.

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