Knowing which financial and personal paperwork to keep or toss is very important. Here’s a suggested timeline for keeping/shredding documents.
Documents which should be kept indefinitely – in a secure location:
- Birth/death certificates and Social Security cards
- Marriage Licenses and Divorce Decrees
- Pension plan documents
- Copies of wills, trusts, health care proxies/living wills and powers of attorney (attorney/executor should have copies)
- Military discharge papers
- Copies of burial deeds and plots
- Safe-deposit box inventory
- Copies of all tax returns
Suggested timeline for retaining documents:
- Supporting documents for tax return (7 years) – This is the recommended minimum period of time to retain. Remember, tax return copies should remain on file forever.
- Investment records and statements (7 years) – These are needed for tax filing. Keep for at least 3 years. You may want to keep for the same amount of time as the supporting documents for tax returns.
- Credit card statements (45 days-7 years) – Keep up to seven years if it may be used for taxes, as proof of purchase or for insurance.
- Bank statements (1-3+ years) – Keep for 3 years or longer if you apply for Medicaid, or it pertains to taxes, a business expense, home improvement, mortgage payment or major purchase.
- Medical and dental records (1-5 years) – Keep for at least one year, maybe up to five to be safe. Retain information about prescriptions, specific medical histories, health insurance information and contact information for your physician.
- Utility and phone bills (1 month-1 year) – Shred them after you have paid them, unless they contain tax-deductible expenses—keep them for a year if they can be used for business deductions.
- Insurance policies (until closed) – Keep as long as the policies remain in force.
- Mortgages and other home documents (ownership + 6 years) – Mortgages, deeds and home improvement documents should be kept on file for the length of ownership, plus six years after selling the home.
- Appliance manuals and warranties (if owned) – Keep on file for the length of ownership.
- Vehicle titles and loan documents (if owned) – Keep on file for the length of ownership.
- Pay stubs (until end of year) – There is not a requirement for keeping pay stubs. Keep up to three months if you are applying for a loan. You may want to keep them for a year so you can compare against your W-2.
Be sure to shred any information that has your personal details on it. Digital copies of all of these documents can be kept in the Vault of our online wealth management system.