Important Documents: What to Keep and When to Throw Out?

Managing paperwork and personal documents can be overwhelming. Between bills, receipts, statements, insurance paperwork and medical documents, it’s hard to know what to hold and what to discard. Follow these guidelines to help stay organized and clear clutter.

Keep indefinitely:

  • Birth, marriage and divorce certificates
  • Social security cards
  • Marriage license and divorce decrees
  • Estate planning documents, i.e. wills and trusts
  • Adoption papers
  • Citizenship papers
  • Education and military records
  • Property deeds
  • Passports

One year or less:

  • ATM receipts/deposit slips. Be sure to double check that your deposits and withdrawals match your monthly statement before pitching.
  • Receipts. After you see the purchase correctly reflected on your statement, then discard.
  • Utility bills. Once you receive a new bill that shows you’ve paid your previous bill, it can be discarded. If you like to compare, feel free to hang onto a few bills.
  • Bank statements. If you receive hard copies, you should keep them for one year, unless there is an expense that is needed for tax purposes.
  • Monthly statements. You can discard monthly credit card, mortgage, investment account statements at the end of the year once you compare them with your year-end summary.

More than one year:

  • Deeds and titles. Keep for as long as you own the property.
  • Mortgage documents. Keep for the life of the loan, plus an additional seven years.
  • Insurance policies. Retain for as long as the policy is active plus a few years in case of a dispute.
  • Loan documents. Keep for as long as you have the loan, plus an additional six years.
  • Medical records. Retain for five years from the time you receive treatment.
  • Receipts for larger items purchased such as furniture, appliances, computers, etc. Keep for as long as you have the item. This will be helpful if something needs fixed or returned or in the event that you need to make an insurance claim.
  • Tax returns. Retain for at least three years, preferably seven.

The tips above will ensure that you have the essential documents needed for the appropriate length of time. In addition, we suggest having an organized filing system that you can easily find and access documents. Be sure to review these documents annually. Also, to protect yourself from identity theft it is important to shred any documents that contain personal information prior to throwing it away. If you have any questions that we didn’t address, please reach out to us. We are here to help you stay organized!

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