The Documents You Need: Titles, Deeds, and Receipts

Continuing with the series about the documents you need in an emergency, today I’m covering titles, deeds, high-value receipts, and loan documents. I’ll sum it up first in one line: keep them in the safe deposit box. If you want more info about obtaining copies of lost items or ensuring everything is secure, keep reading.

Car Title, Boat Title, and other Title Documents
Even if your car, boat, motorcycle, or other vehicle is technically owned by the bank, you’ll still receive a copy of the title reflecting you as the owner and the bank as the lien holder. Once the loan is paid off, you’ll receive a clear title. Regardless of what is stated on the title, you should keep a copy in your safe deposit box. If you don’t have one, keep it in the emergency box or a home safe. These documents rarely need to be accessed, so you don’t need to worry about instant access. Whatever you do, don’t keep it in the car.

If you lost the title and need a replacement, you can order a new one through the DMV for a small fee. When you receive it, make sure the VIN and other details match those of the vehicle, and then put it in a safe place.

Property Deed or Mortgage Deed
A deed is actually the document that conveys title, but it isn’t usually called a title. If you have a mortgage, the deed may be a deed in trust held by the bank until the loan is paid off. Whichever type of document you have, you should also keep it in the safe deposit box, home safe, or emergency box. You’ll only rarely need to access the deed.

If you lost your copy, you can order one from the county clerk, country recorder, county registrar, depending on the rules of your state/county. Deeds are public records, so you can also search for it yourself. There’s usually a small fee to order a certified copy.

Loan Documents
Loan documents rarely need to be accessed, so a safe deposit box is sufficient. You could also keep them in a safe or your emergency box. If you’re not terribly concerned about a disaster, then a home filing cabinet will even work.

For many years, you could ask the lender for a copy of the documents if you lost yours. Most mortgages are now sold and resold so many times that many banks can’t find the documents anymore, so don’t count on them if you need a copy.

Home Inventory
Always keep your home inventory in a safe deposit box, emergency box, or with a friend or relative who lives out of the area. Your inventory should be a detailed list of your belongings, including make, model number, and original price if you can find it. You should also do a video or photo home walk-through to document your belongings. You could keep it in the emergency box, but a large fire could make it unreachable. The inventory is a valuable weapon in the battle with your insurance company, so take the extra step of getting it out of your house.

High-Value Receipts
Your home inventory may not be enough in the event of a major fire. For computers, electronics, fine jewelry, and art, you should also keep the original receipts. You may also need an insurance rider, so have the art or jewelry appraised and keep it with the receipts. Receipts for items outside of their warranty periods should be in a safe deposit box or safe. You could also mail them to a trusted friend or relative. Keep receipts within the warranty period in your emergency box in case you need to make a warranty claim.

If you don’t have the receipts and the purchase was recent, you might be able to get a copy from the store or your credit card company.

Your safe deposit box is probably getting pretty full by now, but it’s better to have too much in there than to realize you’ve lost an important document just when you need it. Tomorrow the series continue with more important documents: family photos and videos.

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