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Feature Articles: Insurance


Documenting your personal property losses

Annette Fitzgerald, former Personal Financial Planning Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Could you put together an insurance claim if you suffered losses from a natural disaster or accident? Do you know where your homeowner's insurance policy is? Could you prove what you own and the value of your property?

The task of putting lives back together again after a natural disaster can be overwhelming when families try to repair and replace their homes and personal possessions. For some, careful planning and record keeping may save them lots of frustration when it comes to insurance claims. For others, the lack of records may not only hinder their recovery, but may shortchange them when it comes to being compensated for their losses.

Planning ahead is the key in the event an insurance claim must be filed. Whether your claim is large or small, the process of household record keeping is the same.

If you don't already have a household inventory, now is the time to compile one. The University of Missouri Extension publication Our Valuable Papers is a comprehensive tool for recording important financial information, property inventories and professional advisors. You can order Our Valuable Papers online (cost is $1) or contact your local MU Extension Center to request a copy. Record keeping books are also available at local bookstores or from your insurance agent. It doesn't necessarily matter what you record the information on, it's the process of actually doing it that is the important part.


Make a section for each room in your home and list all the property in those rooms. Don't forget to include the attic, basement and garage. Attach receipts, bills of sale and/or serial numbers to the pages, if you have them. Remember that some items may require appraisals as well.


Don't overlook the use of your camera when compiling your household inventory. Photograph items throughout the rooms and list each item's value and other pertinent information on the back before putting them in your inventory book. Or use your video camera to go from room to room documenting your possessions. Talk your way through your home describing the item, date of purchase and it's cost. Don't forget to document the outside of your home as well, including the landscaping and outdoor furniture.

Once you've put together your household inventory, store it in a safe place. The best place is probably a safe deposit box. Consider including a copy of your homeowner's insurance policy with the inventory.

Review your homeowner's insurance policy annually to make sure you're adequately protected against loss. Consider replacement value options – the extra cost may pay for itself in the event of a major loss.

Documenting what you own can be a daunting job, but if you find yourself in an unfortunate situation when you need the information, you'll be very glad that you took the time to do it.


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Last update: Monday, April 29, 2013