How long should I keep that?

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:

Personal :

• 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 records:

• 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).

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