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Publication #DH138

Keeping a Household Inventory and Protecting Valuable Records1

Michael T. Olexa and Lauren Grant2

Introduction

A disaster strikes. Your home and possessions are destroyed. Will you be able to pick up the pieces? You will, if you do both of these:

  1. Keep an up-to-date household inventory

  2. Keep the inventory and other valuable documens in a secure location

This publication provides details about these two tasks.

Keeping a Household Inventory

An up-to-date household inventory is a valuable resource. Before a disaster, the inventory will help you determine if you have enough insurance to cover the contents of your home. After the disaster, the inventory will help prove the value of the damaged or destroyed possessions for insurance or tax deduction purposes.

An inventory consists of the following:

  • A description of each item (include brand name, model, and serial number)

  • When you bought the item (if you cannot remember, give an approximate date)

  • Where you bought the item

  • How much the item costs (include how much you paid for it, how much it is currently worth, and how much it would cost to replace it)

It is highly recommended to have photos and/or a video to accompany your inventory.

Do not forget less expensive items, such as clothes and linens. It will be costly to replace these items entirely. Be thorough—inventory your home room-by-room and do not forget to check closets, outside lawn furniture, or tools in the garage. Keep the inventory up-to-date.

There are computer software programs to assist you in this task.

The University of Illinois, College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences provides an excellent guide and relevant forms for conducting a household inventory. Access the guide online at http://www.aces.uiuc.edu/vista/abstracts/ahouseinv.html

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation is a good source for household inventory forms. Access the forms online at http://www.floir.com/siteDocuments/InvestoryChecklist_6-26-08.pdf

Protecting Valuable Records

The key to a smooth recovery is documentation. Secure your valuable papers in a waterproof, fireproof container.

Table 1 is a list of the valuable papers that need to be in a safe deposit box at a secured location outside of the home, such as a bank, especially in preparation for a disaster such as a hurricane. Table 2 is a list of valuable papers that need to always be in your possession at home in a waterproof, fireproof, locked box.

Additional copies of valuable records should be in the care of a lawyer, the future administrator of your will, a business associate, or a trusted family member residing outside of your home.

Sources for This Publication

Tables

Table 1. 

Valuable papers to keep in your safe deposit box

Property

1.

Property records (deeds, titles, leases)

2.

Household inventory

3.

Home improvement records

4.

Automobile title and bill of sale

5.

Copyrights and patents

6.

Certificates for stocks, bonds, etc.

Financial

1.

Income tax returns

2.

Contracts (including promissory notes)

3.

Copies of insurance policies

4.

Important receipts and bills of sale

5.

Supporting documentation for large transactions, unusual losses, or deductions

Identification

1.

Social security cards

2.

Citizenship papers

3.

Passports

4.

Birth certificates

5.

Marriage certificates

6.

Death certificates

Other

1.

Divorce decrees

2.

Adoption/Custody papers

3.

Military service records

4.

Retirement papers

5.

Religious records

6.

Copies of your and your partner's wills

7.

Trust agreements, living wills, powers of attorney, and health care powers of attorney

   
Table 2. 

Valuable papers to keep at home in a waterproof, fire-proof locked box

General

1.

Safe deposit box keys

2.

Safe deposit records and inventory of items

3.

List of emergency contacts (doctors, veterinarians, financial advisors, clergy, reputable repair contractors, and family members)

Property

1.

Rental property records

2.

Guarantees and warranties

3.

Appliance/Electronics manuals

4.

Copies of insurance policies

Financial

1.

Income tax returns

2.

Current bank balances

3.

Loan payment books

4.

Employee benefits

5.

Bank account, loan, credit card, investment account numbers

Identification

1.

Social security numbers

2.

Driver license numbers

3.

Copies of citizenship papers

4.

Copies of birth certificates

5.

Copies of marriage certificates

6.

Educational records

Health

1.

Health records

2.

Copies of immunization records

3.

Copies of prescriptions for medicines and eyeglasses

4.

Copies of veterinary/vaccination records

5.

Health, dental, or prescription insurance cards

   

Footnotes

1.

This document is EDIS document DH138, formerly IFAS publication DH0207. Published June 1998, revised January 2016. It is part of The Disaster Handbook, a component of the Comprehensive Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Education Module. There are ten Disaster Handbook documents by Olexa and Grant: DH138, DH199, DH200, DH201, DH202, DH203, DH204, DH206, DH215, and DH219. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Michael T. Olexa, professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, and director, Center for Agricultural and Natural Resource Law, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL. Lauren Grant, student, Levin College of Law, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

This publication is designed to provide accurate, current, and authoritative information on the subject. However, since the laws, regulations, administrative rulings, and court decisions on which it is based are subject to constant revision, portions of this publication could become outdated at any time. This publication is distributed with the understanding that the authors are not engaged in rendering legal advice or opinions, and the information contained herein should not be regarded, or relied upon, as a substitute for legal advice or opinion. For these reasons, the utilization of these materials by any person constitutes an agreement to hold harmless the authors, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and the University of Florida for any liability claims, damages, or expenses that may be incurred by any person as a result of reference to or reliance on the information contained in this fact sheet.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.