Not having a home inventory
Trying to recreate a mental picture of the items inside your home can be difficult once a natural disaster has taken them away. A home inventory allows you to catalogue valuables and other belongings in a handy list.
"Before a loss is the best time to create a home inventory of your items," Wilson says.
He recommends using a camcorder or cellphone to take images and video of items. The New York-based Insurance Information Institute also offers "Know Your Stuff," a free online tool for creating a home inventory.
If you fail to keep an inventory and disaster subsequently strikes, you will need to do the best you can to recreate a comprehensive picture of the destroyed items. That can be difficult, Conarton says.
"After a loss, people are very stressed," she says. "They may have a difficult time remembering everything they owned and how much they paid for it."
Without an inventory, you'll have to look through old photographs and watch home videos that can document items prior to their destruction. Or you'll need to contact financial institutions such as banks and credit card issuers to obtain account statements that can help substantiate the value of your lost stuff.