When managing a business or a household, determining what documents to keep and what documents to trash or shred can become confusing. To help you organize your home or office, read below for a list of shredding guidelines; it outlines what documents you should always save versus those that are safe to discard:
Documents To Keep Forever:
There are a few documents that are so important they must never be shredded or thrown away, and they are as follows:
- IRA and 401K documents: Keeping these financial documents are important for many reasons. For example, you need to be able to show the IRS any nondeductible contributions you have made in order to avoid overpaying taxes when you do take out money, and you will need the documents both before and after retirement.
- Proof of home ownership: This only applies to the home in which you are currently living. If you sell your home, hold on to your ownership documents for three years then you can safely shred them. However, if you are still living in a home, you should keep all ownership documents such as purchase documents and the deed.
- Land deeds: Although some states keep digital copies of land deeds on record, it is still wise to have a hard copy of any land you or your family owns or has owned. This documentation is crucial when proving ownership of a piece of property if it is ever called into question.
- Vital certificates: birth, death, marriage, divorce, adoption, etc.
- Trust documents: even though your estate planning attorney may hold onto the originals, retain copies as these are important documents should be on hand (e.g., medical power of attorney)
Shredding Guidelines for Documents You Can Trash:
There are many documents where it’s okay to discard… after you’ve shredded them. Here are some shredding guidelines for documents that contain personally identifiable information:
- Junk mail: All junk mail that features your personal information should be shredded, those that do not can be thrown away.
- Bills that have been paid: There is no reason to keep records of paid bills for more than twelve months unless the company has the propensity to make billing errors. Some of these bills are available via an online statement. Be sure you have what you need for tax time. However, these documents must be shredded because they usually contain your personal information.
- Anything with your name and address: identity thieves are wily. All they need is a little bit of information to start impersonating you.
The above tips are a few shredding guidelines that will help you minimize clutter and make your home or office environment operate more efficiently.