Many people, like myself, have decorated a spare bedroom with boxes of old medical insurance reimbursement statements and tax returns. While interesting to grandchildren that you only earned $6,000 annually decades ago with both spouses employed and being able to tell them when their mom had her tonsils out, now is the time to do a little housecleaning and “cross-shred” those documents you really don’t need.
Records fall into four categories (1) personal, (2) ownership or financial, (3) tax, and (4) medical. Keep the following:
• All original or certified copies of marriage licenses, divorce decrees and property settlements, pre-nuptial agreements, adoption decrees, birth and death certificates, indefinitely.
• College transcripts and diplomas, indefinitely.
• Military discharge records/DD214s, indefinitely.
• Child custody/support orders until the kids are grown.
• Work reviews and memos on job performance for 15 years.
• Current estate documents. Wills and any codicils or personal property memorandum, trusts, and powers of attorneys, indefinitely or until revoked. (can keep in a safe deposit box at a bank)
• Contracts for pre-need funerals and deeds for cemetery plots
• Pension plan and retirement-plan documents.
• Current passports – Valid for 10 years from date of issue.
• Credit report or FICO score for three years.
General purchase and sale:
• Cancelled checks or bank statements for one year, unless tax related or provide proof of home improvements (not repairs) that increases the basis in your home.
• Utility bills for one year.
• Only current house and car insurance policies.
• Title to cars, RV, boats, and mobile homes until you sell the vehicle.
• Warranties until they expire.
• Receipts for major purchases and repairs, until the item is replaced.
• Documentation of credit card purchases and payments for three years.
• Loan and rental agreements until the loan is satisfied of record or six months after you move and your security deposit is refunded.
• Promissory notes until satisfied.
• Art and jewelry purchase records and appraisals, indefinitely if valuable.
• Most deeds and mortgages, and plats are public record and you can get a certified copy at the courthouse for a small cost. Nevertheless keep the deeds and plats to all lands you currently own and any mortgages you still are paying on.
• Appraisals for home equity lines of credit, while the equity line is open.
• Home inventory, update every five years for insurance purposes.
• Termite contracts.
• Tax returns and supporting documents for three years, that’s how long the IRS has to initiate an audit. If you are self-employed, had capital gains or losses or own your own business, you need to keep supporting documentation and tax returns for seven years.
• Property tax statements for one year unless you itemized deductions, then keep with your other tax records.
• Investment records on the purchase of stocks and mutual funds until you sell them, then with your other tax records.
• IRA account information, especially withdrawals for one year, then keep with tax records.
• Disability award letters , indefinitely
• Workers compensation settlement letters/orders until you draw old age SS benefits or are approved for SS disability and the settlement is requested
• SS annual statements for one year
• Health-insurance plan description and policy for one year after it ends.
• Long-term disability policies
• Health care power of attorney, living will, do not resuscitate order, indefinitely.
• Medical records that relate to surgeries and inpatient treatments and significant medications (this can easily be entered into a more permanent and compact record on CD by scanning onto a CD or external hard drive).