Tips for Documenting Your Valuables

Jill Green |

Could you list (and accurately value) all your personal property from memory?  In the event you need to file a claim, a complete inventory of all your possessions can help you document your loss.  A written description should include the date of acquisition, original cost, and any improvements.  Serial numbers, if available, should be recorded, and any receipts you have should be attached to the list.

Not sure keeping an inventory is all that important?  You should.  Here is what a former insurance company employee said about how documentation plays a huge role in your claim:


"Our goal was to use the information you provided, and give the lowest value we could possibly justify for your item.  For instance, if all you said was "toaster", we would come up with a $4.88 toaster from Walmart that toasted one side of one piece of bread at a time.  We would do that for every thing you owned.  We had master lists of the most commonly used descriptions, and what the cheapest viable replacements were.  To further that example:

  • If you said "toaster – $25", we would have to be within -20% of that—so, we would find something that's pretty much dead-on $20.01
  • If you said "toaster – $200", we'd kick it back and say "need more info", because that's a ridiculous price for a toaster (with no other information given)
  • If you said "High-end toaster, stainless steel, glowing-blue power button", you might get $35-50 instead.  We had to match all features that were listed.Some things require documentation & ages.

If you say "TV – $2,000", you're getting a 32" LCD, unless you can provide it was from the last year or two with receipts.  If you're missing paper trails for things that were legitimately expensive, go through every photo you can find that was taken in your house.  If it really comes down to it, pictures that guests posted on Facebook from your child's birthday party are better than nothing.  Come up with any evidence you possibly can, for anything that could possibly be deemed expensive."


If you have a video or digital camera, you can establish additional documentation of your home and belongings for insurance purposes.  This record, which can be used as evidence in case of theft, fire, or damage, should include the following:

  • A complete scan of all rooms, outside grounds, attic, basement, and garage
  • Close-ups of all valuable items such as artwork, jewelry, and antiques.  Be sure to zoom in on serial numbers of stereos, television sets, and other electronic appliances
  • Audio commentary of details that may not be visually apparent

Store the visual images, along with your comprehensive written list, in a safe place away from home—such as a locked file cabinet at your office or your bank safe deposit box.  For extra safety, you may want to make copies and store them in separate locations.  Once you have established a complete inventory, it should be fairly easy to do periodic updating.


As you can see, documenting your valuables is extremely important in the unfortunate case of having to file a claim.  Compile a list, keep it in a safe place, and update it when necessary.


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