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how to store important documentsFloods, fires, tornadoes, and other natural disasters are tremendously destructive and can occur quickly and unexpectedly. After a disaster, the ability to prove your identity and show ownership of your home, vehicles, and other property can be difficult and time consuming if you’ve lost the official documentation. Having secure storage solutions for your legal documents provides peace of mind and makes your family’s recovery from a disaster a little easier.

In the event of a disaster, having vital documents such as passports, birth certificates, deeds, and financial records securely stored is crucial to beginning a timely recovery, but what about old photographs, videos, letters from family, and other irreplaceable family papers? These documents and treasures are essential to the recovery process and should be stored and protected properly.

Renting a safe deposit box at a local bank is a great idea, but if that is not possible, another effective solution is to purchase a quality fireproof/waterproof safe or file cabinet for your home. Your selection should be large enough to hold all of your important documents and be firmly secured to the floor or heavy enough to prevent movement.

Fortunately, your insurance agent will have copies of your current insurance policies and coverage limits. Your homeowners policy will typically provide specific coverage limits for cash and other important documents in your home.

The following checklist from the American Red Cross will help you identify the types of papers and items that should be stored in an off-site safe deposit box:

  • Marriage & birth certificates
  • Copies of drivers’ licenses
  • Divorce & custody papers
  • Mortgages & deeds
  • Adoption papers
  • Stock & bond certificates
  • Passports
  • Car titles
  • Social security cards
  • Insurance policies
  • Military records
  • Wills, trusts, & power of attorney documents

The American Red Cross also recommends that families have a portable fire and waterproof disaster kit stocked with the following additional important documents:

  • Letters of instruction
  • Federal and state tax returns
  • Emergency contact information
  • Medical & health insurance info
  • Household inventory
  • Warranties and receipts
  • Digital backups
  • Credit card records
  • Retirement account records
  • Banking & investment acct. records
  • Recent pay stubs
  • Home improvement records
  • Rental, lease, or mortgage papers
  • Appraisals for jewelry, artwork, collectables, & other valuables
  • Safe deposit box information

Without preparation and protection, recovering from a disaster can be arduous and, in extreme cases, nearly impossible. However, with a little foresight and planning, recovering can be a little bit easier to handle, especially knowing that your important documents, irreplaceable photos and videos, and other family valuables will remain protected.

At Eaton & Berube, your well-being and the security of your meaningful possessions are important to us. For additional security tips and useful resources, please subscribe to our blog or contact us.