Dec 2009 16

How to Document Your Property

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Documenting your property. photo by Andy Melton

Documenting your property and keeping a home inventory is a process in which you construct a detailed report that includes all the important personal items and valuables in your house. A home inventory is not only a key component for documenting insurance claims, but also helps with estate and financial planning.

Importance of Keeping a Home Inventory

Filing for an insurance claim is complicated, and insurers usually want proof of ownership of the items misplaced, damaged, or destroyed. It is nearly impossible to recall from memory all the details about every single piece of valuables you own, especially things such as the purchase date and price, or model number. A itemized and up-to-date home inventory ensures that when this information is required for insurance purposes, you are most likely to get fully reimbursed for the lost items and ensures a smooth process with the insurance company with no complications. In reality, in order to receive a settlement that covers the full extent of your loss, you must provide documented proof of ownership. Many people do not realize it is their responsibility to do so, unfortunately.


Having proof of ownership and value of your personal property handy for any potential insurance claim is a great advantage. With an up-to-date, detailed inventory, you?ll rest easier knowing your possessions are protected. Items such as jewelry, electronics, antiques, artwork, and other valuables can be identified, thus are eligible for additional coverage to be insured for their full price. A home inventory also simplifies your life in many ways. You?ll have a detailed listing of what you own available when you need it, whether for insurance purposes, estate planning, estate valuation, tax issues, moving, legal issues, or other reasons. And, it?s fairly simple to update annually.

The inventory process allows you to establish the value of your personal property. This can be an important estate and financial planning tool. It is a valuable resource and supplement for wills, trusts, and other legal documents. The probate process is also simplified and less stressful since all the details needed are included in the inventory. Auctions and estate sales require a detailed listing of items?conveniently provided by the home inventory.

Creating Your Own Home Inventory

Creating Your Own Home Inventory.
Creating Your Own Home Inventory.
photo by Jose Roco

When compiling your own home inventory, it often requires a great amount of time, proper equipment (digital/film camera, scanner, video camera) and software (available for homes or businesses) in order for insurance companies to acknowledge it. Your home inventory report should include the following: description of the item, manufacturer, model number, serial number, cost, purchase date, photos and videos of them item, estimated or appraised replacement value, and scans of receipts and other important documents regarding the item. Other notes you want to include can also be added to the report. Once your inventory is complete, it is crucial to keep it in a safe location outside your home (such as a safe deposit box) or give a copy to your lawyer or insurance agent. The best way to keep your inventory documentation safe is to encrypt it and upload it to multiple secure servers on the Web. That way, it is accessible from anywhere in the world and can never be destroyed, stolen, or tampered with.

Hiring an Inventory Specialist

All this time and effort on your part can be avoided by hiring a reputable company to compile your household inventory for you. Inventory specialists are often acknowledged by insurance companies and financial planners, thereby assuring that your inventory is complete with all the information needed. An inventory specialist can have this task done in about a week, depending on the amount of items to be documented. Also, prices are generally quite affordable for this type of service. An additional service is the security that these companies provide. Encrypting and backing up the inventory report at their facility ensures that it will always be available for you in case your copy is lost or destroyed.

Choosing an Inventory Specialist

Be sure to hire a specialist that can provide a performance bond (a signed guarantee certificate assuring that your inventory will be kept confidential and secure), and a statement of work defining the items inventoried. It is recommended to speak with a few companies before choosing one?and make sure that you ask as many questions as possible regarding any concerns you might have. ?

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