Think of a family as a mini-business. Families plan, save, buy, and invest just like most businesses. For this reason, maintaining the proper family records is just as important as keeping business records is. Saving these records for the proper amount of time is an integral part of this whole process. The following tips are good rules of thumb to follow concerning your family and financial records.
Essential personal and family records such as birth, marriage, and death certificates should be permanently stored, preferably in a safe deposit box. The same rule applies to passports and original Social Security cards. Backup electronic copies via scanning should also be maintained.
Vital property records, such as real property deeds, burial lot deeds, and motor vehicle titles, should also be permanently stored in a safe deposit box.
An inventory of household goods and appraisals should be stored in a safe deposit box or electronically with backups. Photographs or videos of valuable personal property should also be maintained and safeguarded.
Insurance policies should be kept a minimum of 7 years in a home file. A list of all current insurance policies and policy numbers should be maintained in the safe deposit box or electronically with backups in the event of a house fire.
Auto service records should be retained in a home file for the duration of the ownership of the vehicle. These records may be helpful when selling the vehicle later.
Copies of canceled checks for non-tax-deductible expenditures should be stored in a home file or electronically for 3 years. Receipts and records of deductible expenses should be stored in a fireproof home file or electronically for 6 years.
Copies of past tax returns should be kept a minimum of 6 years (15 years is best).