The Advantage Blog

Making a Record of Your Valuable Possessions

Making an insurance claim in the aftermath of a home fire, flood or burglary can be traumatic.  Knowing that there are personal items that cannot be replaced is heartbreaking.  Trying to remember all the other items in your home that need to be listed on a claim is also a real challenge.

What If…

If a large number of your possessions were missing or destroyed in a fire or flood it would be hard, if not impossible, to remember every single item you own. Remembering where you bought these items and how much they cost would not be easy either.

An Inventory of Personal Possessions Makes Sense
It makes sense to have a written record of your possessions.  Preparing an inventory will take a little effort, but the time, money, and frustration it can save is well worth it. This record will help you and your insurance provider in the event you have to make a claim. It may also help police recover your belongings if they are stolen, and help you document any tax write-offs you may be entitled to as a result of a loss.

How To Get Started

There’s more than one way to compile an inventory of your possessions.  But whatever method you choose, the more detail the better. You can check with your homeowner’s insurance company to see if they have any specific recommendations or appraisal requirements.

A thorough inventory of personal property includes:
•    A written listing of all of your items, and descriptions if possible.
•    Receipts for valuable items.
•    Serial numbers (often on warranty cards) of your valuable items.
•    Current appraisals, as appropriate for jewelry, art and other high value items.
•    A video or photos of all of your possessions, as well as your home.

Make video and/or photo documentation
Use a systematic approach with photos and videos. If you’re using a video camera, start by panning the room from the doorway, then make your way around the room scanning all four walls and finish with the items in the middle of the room.  Don’t forget to video tape drawers, closets and all valuables.  If possible, narrate the video with descriptions of the items and label photos and videos with the date they were made.  Again, include as much detail as possible.

Once you’ve completed your inventory, make a copy and store it in a safe place outside your home. If your inventory is on the computer, you can make a CD or DVD, or put it on a USB flash drive storage device.  If it’s on paper make at least one copy. In either case, store it in a safe place like a safety deposit box and consider sending an extra copy to a close friend or family member.

Some things are difficult to replace, and some are priceless
Homeowners insurance can help replace many of your possessions if you suffer a loss, but there are some things that are very difficult to replace and some that can’t be replaced at all. Family photographs are among those items, and you need to protect them in the best way you can. Many of these items can be copied and/or stored in a safety deposit box. They include:

•    Photos-duplicate or scan them into your computer and put them on CDs or DVDs.
•    Computer data: make regular back-ups on CDs, or DVDs, label with contents and date.
•    Small, valuable collectibles you don’t want to display, like rare coins. Note that anything that could be damaged by water should be sealed in airtight bags or containers-even in a safety deposit box.
•    Jewelry you don’t wear often.
•    Important personal papers you use infrequently (e.g., passport, birth certificate).
•    A listing of important financial information including bank and brokerage account numbers, credit card numbers, etc.

Start Today!
Fires, floods, other natural disasters and burglaries happen without warning.  Being prepared is the only way you’ll be able to recover many of your most valuable possessions when disaster strikes.  So take some time to thoroughly document what you have.  You’ll sleep better knowing that you can easily identify any lost items.  Documenting your valuable possessions is something we hope you never have to take advantage of.  But if you do, for you and your family it will be priceless.