Which Documents Should I Hold Onto

By: Matthew Funeral Home
Monday, October 25, 2021

For estate planning, taxes, lines of credit, end-of-life forms, and more; it can be difficult to determine which documents are important to hold onto. Which forms do you need? How stuffed can your file cabinet get? Knowing what files you need to hold onto can be important to keep your records well structured.

Vital Files

These files should always be kept and should be in a secure location, such as a fireproof lockbox. These documents are among the most important forms you will ever have, and are extremely important for taxes, estate planning, credit lines, and more. These forms should be held for every member of your household. Below is a list of common documents that you should make sure to store in a safe, secure place.

  • Birth certificates
  • Social Security cards
  • Property deeds and titles of ownership
  • Marriage license(s), and any Divorce Decrees
  • Yearly tax returns
  • Safe-deposit box inventory list
  • Death certificates of close family members
  • Retirement account documents
  • Burial plots and deeds
  • Estate planning documents, such as powers of attorney, wills, trusts, pre-planned funerals, and advanced directives
  • Discharge papers from the military, as well as VA forms

Other Important Documents

Some documents you should keep track of up to a certain point. These should be kept in a file cabinet or other secure storage box. These documents can pile up, so be sure to only hold on to the ones you think you will need, and for however long is specified. After a while, some of these will simply be clutter.

  • Any supporting tax documents – The IRS recommends that you keep most of your tax documents for at least three years from the date of your return. Documents that relate to tax deductions should be held for 7.
  • Utility bills – Until you pay them unless you can deduct your utilities from your taxes. Then you should keep them for 7 years, as listed above with tax documents.
  • Pay stubs – It is always safe to hold on to 3 months’ worth, just in case you need to apply for credit in the event of an emergency. If you are planning on applying for credit, then you should actively prepare three months’ worth of pay stubs as part of your credit package.
  • Home Purchase/Improvement Receipts - You should keep any documents regarding home improvement payments until the property is sold, to establish a higher cost basis.
  • Deeds and mortgage – Keep them until you sell the home and then, for another six years after the sale. Make sure you keep a copy of forms indicating the discharge of any mortgage/line of credit that was filed with the county clerk when it was transferred.
  • Insurance policies – For as long as you have the policy, and then for at least 3 months after.
  • Warranties and manuals – For as long as you own the vehicle or appliance
  • Auto loans and vehicle titles – For as long as you own the vehicle
  • Medical records – Keep treatment records for at least five years, though you always want to have records with the contact information of your physician. A list of pertinent health information and history, including medications and allergies. Should always be kept. You may want to keep medical records for a longer period in case you need to prove the onset of a disability.
  • Bank statements – Keep them for at least seven years. You will need to have these on file for business expenses, large purchases, mortgage payments, tax information, or to apply for Medicaid.
  • Investment account statements – Keep them for at least three years. You should keep them for up to seven years if you can deduct them from your taxes.

For more questions regarding which documents should be secure and protected for your estate planning, Medicaid, taxes, and more; speak with your estate planning attorney, as well as your accountant. Both should be able to provide you with more insight into what documents are important to file.

Matthew Funeral Home does not provide legal or financial advice via articles. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for legal or financial advice.
For over 50 years, Matthew Funeral Home has been serving the Staten Island community. We can help with almost every aspect of your loved one’s memorial service. Our family is here to serve yours, every step of the way.

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