Documents: What to Keep, Shed or Shred

Detail of a filing cabinet with tabs labelled for mortgage documents, house insurance, etc.

Documents: What to Keep, Shed or Shred

Kathy Klein, CFP®, Wealth Advisor

April 20, 2018

Spring is just around the corner, and so is our Spring Cleaning / Paper Shredding event for our friends and clients.  We’re excited to give you this opportunity to dispose of sensitive papers safely.  As you embark on your purging party, we hope the following guidelines will help you decide what documents should be shredded, tossed or kept.

What documents should you keep permanently?

Tame your desire to toss everything – instead, create a safe and organized permanent file of the following documents:

  • Birth and death certificates
  • Social Security cards
  • Pension plan documents
  • Passports
  • Marriage licenses
  • Final divorce agreement
  • Business licenses
  • Copies of all current insurance policies
    • Ex: health, homeowners, auto, umbrella, life, disability, long-term care
  • Estate planning documents
    • Wills
    • Powers of Attorney
    • Trust documents
  • Vehicle titles
  • Loan documentation / mortgage documents
  • Releases from all loans (ex: homes, cars, student loans)
  • Real estate deed(s)
  • Tax returns for all years (see below for more information)
  • Receipts for jewelry and other valuables
  • Medical records
  • Military records, including discharge papers

What should you keep for just one year?

  • Latest social security statement
  • Annual life insurance summary statement
  • Retirement plan benefits statements
  • Annual investment summary

What should you keep regarding your home?

  • Home purchase/closing documents
  • Home improvement records to establish your basis
  • Home sales/closing documents (at least seven years)
  • Receipts for all major purchases in case of theft or fire (appliances, furniture, artwork, antiques, and collectibles)

What should you keep in case of an IRS audit?

The IRS has three years from the filing date to audit your returns plus can go back an additional three years if they find a substantial error. Thus, we suggest a seven-year holding schedule for all supporting documentation, including but not limited to:

  • Canceled checks
  • Receipts for charitable donations
  • Deductible medical expenses & Health Savings Account expense documentation

Finally, what should you shred?

  • Any documents that don’t fit into the categories above that contain your personal information such as name, address, birthday, Social Security number, account numbers and banking information
  • ATM receipts
  • Expired credit cards, visas, state IDs or passports
  • Monthly investment statements (our clients can access statements online for the last ten years)
  • Trade confirmations that are more than three years old

Now that you have the spring cleaning bug, we hope these guidelines bring you ease as you decide what to keep, shed or shred. Happy cleaning!


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