Part One: Keeping your physical papers in order
Good record keeping is important for everyone to stay organised and well prepared.
Keeping your paperwork in order has many obvious benefits, such as:
o Having peace of mind that you have everything under control
o You are less likely to lose anything if it is kept all together
o Less wasted time trying to find something
o By keeping track of bills you can avoid missed payments
o The ability to compare premiums and help in the decision whether to look at an alternative provider
o Keep track of your outgoings and enabling you to budget
o All in one place in case you have to evacuate due to an emergency
But in today’s hectic world with little available time and even less storage space, what should you keep and for how long?
The following should be kept indefinitely;
Military discharge papers
National Insurance Number card
NHS Medical number
Up to date Will, Living Will or Power of Attorney
Private pension plans
Always keep copies of paperwork relating to treatments and illnesses, although your doctor and hospital should have them, you may need immediate access to them.
If you are entitled to a medical exemption certificate, keep it safe and remember to renew it every 5 years.
If you travel abroad and have an E111 European Health Insurance Card, keep it safe and don’t forget to renewal it every 3 – 5 years.
Private Medical Health (see Insurance documentation)
No matter what insurance cover you might have, you need to keep your schedules and policy wordings for the current year until renewal.
Should you change insurance providers, always keep the previous insurer’s schedule as proof of cover in the event of a claim arising after the inception of the new policym, but relating to the period of the previous policy such as subsidence.
Life and endowment policies should be kept until death or maturity as applicable.
Income and Tax related documentation:
Although the HRMC advise you keep them for 22 months after the end of the tax year, to be on the safe side you should keep documentation relating to income, such as wages (part 1 of a P45, P60’s and P11D’s) benefits (Job Seekers allowance, SSP, Maternity/paternity/adoption leave and other Social Security benefits), share dividends, rental income, trust income and inheritance for the current year plus 6 years as this is the furthest back that the Tax Man can go.
Personal finance documentation:
As per income and tax related documentation, it is best to keep bank, credit card & loans statements for the current year plus 6 years.
Statements relating to your Mortgage should be kept until the mortgage is paid off.
Remember to check your statements regularly in order to spot any fraudulent activity.
Warranties and receipts:
Warranties should be kept for the validity period. (also see insurance documentation)
Important receipts for purchases of jewellery or large /expensive items or work carried out should be kept for a minimum of the current year, plus 6 years in case proof of purchase is required in the event of an insurance claim or required by the Tax Man.
It is worth keeping them for a year so you can see what you actually used during that period and to help in getting alternative quotes from other providers.
Other important documentation:
Property title deeds and vehicle titles need to be kept until such time as you sell the property/vehicle.
Employment contracts should be kept until you leave that particular employment.
Keep share certificates until they are sold.
Things to consider:
You should consider purchasing a fire and waterproof, lockable document storage box to keep your most important paper documents in.
As a greater number of companies go paperless, we can readily access and retain more documentation online, however, in this instance you should always keep a backup either in the cloud or in a storage unit that is kept away from the premises.
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and advice can differ, if in doubt it is always best to err on the side of caution.
Coming up in Part Two: How to store your important documentation securely online.