Managing Editor, www.smallbusinesscomputing.com
Mail Boxes Etc. recommends the following tips for preserving valuable business and personal documents.
1. Be sure to make extra copies of tax filings and other important papers.
2. Keep copies of documents in two separate "safe" places (e.g., safe deposit box, fireproof safe, file cabinet, at the office, or with an accountant). Make sure to store records in a stable environment away from sunlight, bright lights, and water pipes.
3. Store the following documents in a safe deposit box: copy of will, deeds, titles, mortgages, stock/bond certificates, employment contracts, prenuptial agreements, adoption papers, and naturalization papers.
4. For records kept at home, use a fireproof safe or file cabinet. Documents should include: titles to cars, boats or other vehicles, insurance policies, bank statements, W-2 forms, extra copy of will, income statements, employment benefits, and passports.
5. Save all records of home improvements. This may help resolve disputes with insurance agents in the event of a disaster.
6. Hang on to tax returns (includingW2s) FOREVER, particularly if you own a small business. The IRS has three years from an annual return's due date to audit for that year. But if the IRS suspects fraud, there is no limit to how far back it can search for evidence.
7. Review monthly checking account statements. Once each deposit is confirmed, shred the corresponding deposit slip.
8. Hang on to receipts and credit card statements for any appliance under warranty.
9. Be sure to inventory and videotape all expensive household items. Store the videotape in a fireproof safe or safe deposit box.
10. AND MOST IMPORTANT - Draw up a list that details the location of every important record. This list should include the contact information of individuals family members may need to reach regarding specific financial affairs (e.g., accountant, stockbroker, lawyer, financial advisor, insurance agent and bank officer). Keep one copy in a safe deposit box, give one to an attorney, and another to a relative or close friend.