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4. Take a home inventory
Make a visual record of your possessions with a still or video camera. Go room-by-room and take an inventory of all the items inside. Describe the item, its cost and when you bought it. Note any serial numbers or model numbers. Photograph the exterior of your house, including landscaping, patio, fencing and sprinkler system. Include automobiles, boats and RVs in your inventory and photographs. Review your inventory every two to three years to keep it up-to-date. Augment the video or photographs with a written record. List each item and its value as well as any identifying numbers where appropriate. Put your inventory records in a safe place such as a safe-deposit box.

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5. Get a professional appraisal
Jewelry, art, coins, stamp collections and other valuables may need a professional appraisal to support any insurance or tax deduction claims. Be sure your current insurance policy provides adequate coverage limits for these items, or have riders for them.

6. Keep copies of all financial records in a safe place
Goldfarb suggests using a service that scans all of your important financial documents and keeps them in a secure vault on a Web site encoded with special passwords.

"A secure Web site is impervious to weather conditions, a local disaster or even the failure of your hard drive. You can scan anything -- passports, birth certificates, life and homeowners insurance policies, marriage licenses or wills. Almost anything that's written can be stored and easily available to you from a computer."

If you don't want to pay a monthly fee for a service, Goldfarb suggested scanning the documents yourself and burning your own CD with copies of all important financial documents.

Be sure to keep the CD in a safe-deposit box or other secured location not in your home.

You can also get a booklet from your insurance company where you can record all account numbers and policy numbers and household inventory and other relevant financial information. Give it to someone you trust for safe keeping.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Oct. 24, 200y
 
 
More stories by Ellen Goodstein
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