By: Mary Shepherd, Partner Family Coordinator

If someone asked you to list all the contents of your home, could you do it?  Even if you could list everything, would you be able to provide detailed information – purchase date, cost, model, serial number?  Those who have experienced a major loss of the contents of their home realize the importance in having this information at their fingertips when filing a homeowner insurance claim.

A home inventory is a report which includes descriptions and photos of personal property in and around the home.  In case of home fire, damage or theft, most insurance companies require a detailed list of all the items destroyed, damaged, or stolen before the agency will replace them.  By creating a home inventory before a catastrophe happens, the homeowner should be sufficiently prepared, in terms of insurance coverage, to deal with potential loss. Prompt and proper documentation ensures a faster and smoother claims process as well as maximum insurance reimbursement.

I spoke with a local insurance agent about how a homeowner should go about creating a home inventory. He responded that homeowners should annually document the contents of their home by taking photos and/or video of the home room by room.  He also suggested including a list of the make, model and serial number of big items such as appliances and furniture.  This home inventory should be stored in a safe location away from the house, such as in a safe deposit box. Electronic home inventories including digital photos, videos and documentation should be stored away from the house in the cloud or on a backup provider.

A typical insurance policy requires the insured to prepare a detailed inventory of the lost or damaged items and to provide proof of ownership.  Sales receipts and owners’ manuals may be used as proof of ownership as well as provide information about the age and original cost of the items. Including this information in a home inventory makes completing the claims much easier, faster and less stressful since all the information needed is clearly documented.

In addition to insurance claims, a home inventory may be used in dealing with wills and other legal documents.  If beneficiary designation and contact information is included in the home inventory, items may be distributed according to the owner’s wishes. A home inventory provides a valuable resource for planning estate sales and auctions, and verifies the condition of assets at the time of documentation.

Creating a home inventory now will provide the homeowner with a valuable tool in dealing with potential replacement or distribution of personal assets in the future.

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