If you’ve ever sat down to read a declaration page on an insurance policy, you know there’s a lot that goes into the documentation. This information is clearly important, but there’s a lot of paperwork. Do you really need to keep it all, and for how long?
Here’s a quick reference guide for your insurance paperwork, including how to organize it, store it, and for how long.
Whether you have home insurance, an auto policy, a renter’s policy, or another type of coverage, you will be issued a document that spells out the insurance coverage. This main policy document is multiple pages. It includes all the details of your policy, including coverages and limits, discounts, and endorsements. It also is a resource with definitions of insurance terms and explanations of the claims process. If you are bundling your coverages, such as with home and auto, you will have an insurance policy document for each.
You need to know the coverage that you have, but you don’t necessarily need a hard copy of your policy document. If your insurer offers digital access on their website, you can toss the paper version. Either way, you will want to keep a hard copy of the declarations page.
Certificate of Insurance (COI)
This document is the summary of your coverage. Its format is easy to scan and provides a quick look at your coverage details. It’s especially useful to share with lenders who require proof of insurance if you are financing your home or car.
Keep a copy of your certificate of insurance for as long as the policy is active. It is your proof of insurance. When you renew your policy, you can throw out the old COI.
Insurance Claims Documents
Accidents happen, and things get damaged and stolen. You may file a claim with your insurance company when this happens. If your claim is for an auto policy, you will get an accident report. You also may have medical reports and bills. If your claim is for home damage or theft, you will have an inventory of damage. You also will have repair bills, receipts, and other paperwork. If it’s a third-party claim, where you caused injury or loss to another person, you will receive documentation as well.
Claims can sometimes take years, especially if medical bills are involved. As long as your claim is open, keep all of the paperwork. Only throw it out after you have received the payment.
Vehicle Insurance Card
Your auto insurance card fits in your wallet or glove compartment, which is where it should be kept. That way, you have a hard copy even if you have access to a digital version. Hard copies are useful in case you are pulled over by law enforcement or need to exchange the information with another driver in the event of an accident.
Keep the hard copy of your auto insurance card as long as your policy is active. You may dispose of it when the policy renews and you receive a new card.
You will receive regular billing statements from your insurer, usually monthly. These may be by mail or online.
Keep your billing statements for tax purposes if you have a home business or you use your car for business purposes. If you’re audited by the IRS, you may need to show your bills for the last 7 years.
How to Store Documents
If you’re keeping paper copies of documents, you want to make sure that they remain in good, readable condition. Here are some recommendations to keep them that way:
- Never store your important papers in a basement in case of flooding.
- Keep your documents in a safe container in a climate-controlled space to reduce the possibility of mold and fading.
- Store papers in a waterproof and fire-resistant container. Consider a home lock box or safe or a filing cabinet.
- Consider digital storage as well, as a backup. You can store copies of papers on a flash drive. For a small fee, you also can store them in Dropbox and on iCloud and other services.
Pro Tip: Use plastic page sleeves for your documents for added protection. You can slide your documents into the sleeves and then file them in a binder or box.
How to Dispose of Documents
The general rule is that once a policy is done, you don’t need to keep the paperwork. (See the exceptions for claims documents and billing statements above.) But your insurance documents have personal information that could lead to identity theft if not disposed of safely.
- Always shred any old papers. Use a crosscut shredder that cuts in two directions to produce confetti.
- A small home shredder will work or you may find a free shredding event in your community.
- Local banks and other companies also may shred your papers for a fee.
- Remember to permanently delete old digital copies as well.
Did you know, you can access your account online with California Casualty? Once you’ve signed up, you will have quick access to your policy(ies) at any time and from anywhere. You simply “Sign In” in the same right-hand corner where you created your account initially. And easy, secure access to this policy portal gives you the flexibility to:
- Download/Print ID Cards
- View/Download Your Declaration Pages
- Pay Your Bill Online
- Make Some Changes to Your Policy (Manage Drivers, Manage Vehicles, Manage Lienholders/Mortgagee)
- Contact Customer Service for Additional Support
- File a Claim
- Create/Save a New Auto Quote, etc.
Click here to learn more.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
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