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Protect Your Assets by Documenting Your Ownership

By January 5, 2013Estate Planning

We hate to focus on any potentially negative topic right after the wonderful holiday season, however, the months of December through February see a large peak in home burglaries each year.  Part of this is because thieves know that most homes have received a number of new "goodies" that they may be able to make a profit from.  Often they will go through neighborhoods and keep an eye out for discarded boxes on the street that show valuables recieved - such as televisions, Blu-ray players, computers, tablets...etc.  If you are able to wait to discard such boxes, we suggest that you do.  If not, rip the boxes up so that they are not easily recognizable.

If you have gone through a theft before, you will understand how difficult it can sometimes be to get an insurance company to cover your losses.  For this reason, and we highly recommend keeping a document of your higher value items and updating it as things are added.  This should include jewelry, antiques, electronics, instruments and any other valueables you may have that could be stolen.  This list will also be beneficial if a flood, fire, storm or other incident may cause damage to your possessions.

While keeping a spreadsheet or document with the items you own and their values listed is very helpful and an important step, it may not hold up as proof with an insurance company, since it could easily be created and/or falsified after the incident.  We propose that you combine your list of assets with pictures of the item in your home.  The combination will serve as proof that you did indeed own the various items.

Take a camera with you as you walk through your home.  Take pictures of furniture, artwork, televisions, electronics, appliances, jewelry and any other items of value or importance.  Take general pictures around every room to give an estimate of the number of items you have – such as the amount of clothing in the closet, food storage or décor.

Make sure you export these images from your camera and onto your computer and external storage devices.  We highly recommend to have a separate thumb drive that is used only for this purpose.  Place all the images on this thumb drive or a CD and then put it in a fire proof safe along with other important items and documents.

If you experience a loss of personal property due to theft, flood, fire or other causes, you now have proof of the items in order to claim them on your insurance.  Digital cameras record the date into the file information of each picture – giving your insurance proof that the items were in your possession before the loss occurred.

If you would like to go one step further and get an additional benefit from your list and pictures, this is a great way to categorize your personal property and list whom you would like to receive the important items.  Create a field on your spreadsheet that states who the item will go to.  Print off this list yearly, sign and date the printed sheets and place them in the estate planning portfolio.  This will help your beneficiaries to know what your wishes were with regards to your personal belongings.

For more information or to schedule a free consultation with one of our estate planning attorneys, contact MH today at 888.222.1328.

We recommend that you repeat this process once a year to keep your records current.  Also, when you buy new valuable items, take out your camera to quickly take a picture and add it to your collection.  Now you are ready to avoid the insurance run-around and simplify your claims process should you ever have the need.

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