When the Loma Prieta fire whipped through the Santa Cruz mountains, many homeowners evacuated their homes with photo albums, their pets and the clothes on their backs. When disaster strikes, we’re faced with replacing our belongings. So how can we chronicle our valuables to make an insurance claim easier? The best time to inventory items is before you need the list.
If you’ve ever tried to create a written list of all your belongings for an insurance policy, you know this is a daunting task. Of course, some items will be easier than others to prove their worth, such as jewelry and artwork, where you may have appraisals and purchase receipts. If you keep this type of paperwork at home, it won’t help in the case of a complete loss. Scan certified appraisals, receipts, and other critical paperwork. Then, upload to a flash drive or cloud storage site. For example, Dropbox offers free accounts where you can store up to 2 gigabytes of space.
The next best alternative to a written list of your personal assets is taking digital photos. Go room by room, taking photos of the furniture, artwork, keepsakes and other important items. Once you have captured everything, you’ll want to download on a flash drive or CD depending on the size of the files. Or, you can upload to Dropbox or a photo-sharing site like Shutterfly. Shutterfly offers secure photo storage and you can easily organize photos into albums.
Create Your Own Insurance Movie
Roll out the red carpet, your home is about to be the lead star in its own insurance movie. Using a digital camera with video capability, you’ll film each room. During the filming process, narrate the following details for each of your prized possessions:
- Where you purchased/obtained the item
- Date of purchase
- What it is
- How much you paid
- Its approximate worth
- The likely cost of replacement
If you have a large home or many possessions, you’ll likely need to film over several days (depending upon your camera’s battery life and media card size). Once you have the raw footage, it’s time for editing. For those technically inclined, there are several editing software options including iMovie, Final Cut, and Windows Movie Maker. There are also video editing services available, where a professional will take your raw footage, remove gaps, and edit the transitions.
Same Movie, Different Use
Your insurance movie can also be a part of your estate plan. As you narrate, be mindful of what information your loved ones will want to know. Things like:
- Who should inherit the piece
- Any history connected with item
- Any other special requests (e.g., share the family silver for holiday celebrations)
Do you have an insurance movie of your home and valuables?