One list can help avoid a headache at tax time

By Cindy Antrican - For The Register-Herald

As tax season kicks off, AAA is encouraging home owners and renters to take time and create a home inventory list to avoid one less headache. Research shows that more than half of American consumers don’t have an inventory of the possessions they’d want their insurance company to replace in case of a fire, theft, or other disaster. The inventory also comes in handy for tax purposes if you have losses that insurance doesn’t cover.

Whether you’re a minimalist with few possessions or have rooms overflowing with stuff, a thorough home inventory can streamline the claims process and even help you verify losses for your income tax returns. Preparing in advance for an unexpected disaster could mean a little less stress along the way and a faster return to normal life.

While the prospect of building an inventory may feel daunting, there are many approaches. Begin by documenting your most valuable possessions. Note how much each item costs, when it was purchased and serial numbers, if applicable. Don’t forget the garage, basement, attic and storage shed.

Here are five easy steps to creating a home inventory list:

1. Grab your camera or smartphone and take a tour of your home. Take photos or a video of your possessions. Again, make sure to keep electronic copies in an easily accessible place. Photos and video you take with your phone may automatically be saved to cloud storage. Check your mobile phone plan details to be sure.

2. Create a list via paper list, spreadsheet or mobile app. The Insurance Information Institute’s Know Your Stuff® home inventory app not only helps you record a comprehensive list of your belongings, organized by room, it also lets you input your insurance policy information, so you have everything you need in one place in case of losses. If you wish to use paper, make sure it is in a secured notebook.

3. Save your receipts when you make key purchases and store them with the inventory. Note the model and serial numbers of the items.

4. Add up the replacement costs for all of those items to make sure you have enough insurance. Double check, because not all policies cover the actual replacement costs. Also, in some cases, an additional endorsement may be needed for valuables like jewelry, cameras, furs, firearms, trading cards and comics, or other items. The availability of endorsements varies from state to state, however, so find out which endorsements are offered in your area.

5. Store your home inventory and related documents in a safe and easily accessible place. This can be done online, with friends or family, or in a safe deposit box. Don’t rely solely on your home computer, which should always be backed up, in case of fire or a hard drive crash.

Creating a simple home inventory helps you track what you own and what it’s worth. It can be invaluable in deciding how much insurance coverage you need, to say nothing of ensuring you are adequately protected if you ever need to file a claim.

To find out more about homeowners, condo, or renters insurance, contact your AAA agent or (888) 222-0086 to review eligibility for discounts and any coverages you might need.

By Cindy Antrican

For The Register-Herald