Some documents and records need to be kept indefinitely but most can be discarded after a prescribed period. Here are some general rules of thumb as to how long you should keep them. Keep in mind that there may be individual circumstances in which legal considerations, for instance, dictate that documents be kept longer. The basic rule is: When in doubt, donít throw it out. If you have any questions, check with your financial advisor.

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Some documents and records need to be kept indefinitely but most can be discarded after a prescribed period. Here are some general rules of thumb as to how long you should keep them. Keep in mind that there may be individual circumstances in which legal considerations, for instance, dictate that documents be kept longer. The basic rule is: When in doubt, donít throw it out. If you have any questions, check with your financial advisor.

Keep Indefinitely

  • Birth certificates
  • Adoption papers
  • Custody agreements
  • Death certificates
  • Deeds to property
  • Divorce papers
  • List of assets (keep current)
  • List of previous employers
  • Loans that have been paid off (canceled notes or other evidence)
  • Marriage certificates
  • Passports
  • Photographic or video record of house and household contents
  • Record of any governmental employment (e.g., armed forces)
  • Income tax returns (supporting documentation may be discarded after six years)
  • Tax forms and supporting records relating to non-deductible IRA contributions
  • Tax forms and supporting records relating to sale of a home

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Keep for a Prescribed Period

  • Bank statementsósix years
  • Brokersí confirmation slips for purchasesóuntil security is sold
  • Canceled checksósix years
  • Contractsóseven years after expiration
  • Credit card statementsósix years
  • Receipts for home improvements that can be added to tax basis of homeósix years after home is sold in a transaction that is not a ìrolloverî transaction
  • Insurance papers (all types of insurance)ófour years after expiration
  • Mortgage recordsóthree years after paid off
  • Ownersí manuals for appliancesóuntil item is discarded
  • Receipts for major warranted purchasesóuntil item is discarded or sold
  • Records supporting income tax returns and deductions (W-2s, 1099s, receipts)ósix years
  • Warranties and extended service agreementsóuntil expiration

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Throw Out Now

  • Ownersí manuals and warranties for appliances and cars you no longer own
  • Receipts for credit card purchases if not major or related to a tax deduction

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