Several factors determine how long it's appropriate or necessary to keep important household papers. These include the paper's origin or source, intended use, and required access. Consider these recommended guidelines:
Permanent or original records that do not change over time. Examples: Birth, marriage, death, adoption, military discharge, and naturalization papers.
Keep for Multiple Years
Records for proof of payment or transactions. Examples: Tax returns with documentary proof (keep for a recommended three to six years); title to a car until it is sold, transferred, or discarded; mortgage contract and receipts for home improvements until mortgage is paid in full and house is sold or all claims of major damage are settled; deeds until the property is sold or transferred.
Keep for One Year Minimum
Some files need only be kept annually and then safely discarded. Examples: Household budget; bank and/or credit union statements; homeowner or auto insurance policies until they expire and new policies are put into effect.
Items that await an action to disqualify their further usefulness (usually less than a year). Examples: Credit card receipts until they are matched with the billing to be certain the charge was both legitimate and for the proper amount; billings until paid in full.
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