NC State Extension Publications

Take Care of Family Papers

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Many people assume that floods, storms, hurricanes, and other disasters happen to someone else, and many people postpone taking care of family papers. But protecting family papers prepares you to deal with natural disasters.

An up-to-date household inventory is very valuable. When making the inventory, do not overlook tools stored in the garage, lawn furniture, or food in the freezer. You may want to include a video or photographs of your inventory. An accurate inventory will help you determine if you have enough insurance to cover the contents of your home. Keep the inventory current.

Give additional copies of lists of valuables to your lawyer, the administrator of your will, a business associate, or trusted family member who doesn’t live in your home.

Valuable Papers That You Should Keep in Your Safe Deposit Box

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  • Stocks, financial records, and bond certificates
  • Important receipts and bills of sale
  • Property records, deeds, titles, and/or leases
  • List of insurance policies
  • Automobile bill of sale
  • Household inventory
  • Military service records
  • Contracts (including promissory notes)
  • Copyrights and patents
  • Adoption papers
  • A copy of your will (his and hers)
  • Passports
  • Custody papers
  • Auto title
  • Citizenship papers
  • Birth certificates
  • Religious records
  • Death certificates
  • Income tax returns that document large transactions, unusual losses, or deductions
  • Marriage certificates
  • Divorce decrees
  • Social Security cards
  • Government savings bonds
  • Retirement papers

These Valuable Papers May Be Kept at Home in a Waterproof, Fireproof, Locked Box

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  • Advisers’ names and addresses
  • Copies of birth and marriage certificates
  • Guarantees and warranties
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Educational records
  • Income tax returns for past 3 years
  • Employee benefits
  • Appliance manuals
  • Health records
  • Current bank statements
  • Insurance policies
  • Rental property records
  • Loan payment books
  • Safe deposit records and inventory of items
  • Credit card numbers
  • Bank account numbers

For More Information

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For more information on disaster preparedness and recovery visit the NC Disaster Information Center.

Adapted by NC State Extension specialists from University of Florida / Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Disaster Notebook.


State Program Leader for Family & Consumer Sciences & Professor
Agricultural & Human Sciences

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: Jan. 30, 1994
Revised: March 25, 2020

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