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If your possessions are stolen or destroyed, your insurance company will ask you to provide a record of them. Learn the benefits of having a personal property inventory list below.

Details will be important at claim time

Do you know the brand name and serial number of your stereo? Would you recall off the top of your head when and how much you paid for your digital camera? Without a list in front of you for reference, the details of your valuables may be forgotten – which creates more frustration in an already stressful time, and can cost you money in the long run.

That's why it's important to have a personal property inventory created ahead of time – before an unfortunate incident.

What is a personal property inventory?

A personal property inventory is a complete list of all your household goods and personal belongings. A complete inventory includes the following information about each item on your inventory list:

  • The room in the house where it's located
  • Item description and quantity
  • Purchase date
  • Place of purchase
  • Original cost
  • Estimated current value
  • Serial and model number
  • An accompanying videotape or still photographs of each item
  • Receipts and current appraisals for the most valuable items

How does an inventory help you?

No one is fully prepared for a loss, but you can take steps to reduce the stress in the aftermath. A personal property inventory in place before a claim ensures that your claim is filed promptly and completely, which means that you'll get it settled quickly and accurately, and get your life back to normal.

You can also use an inventory to determine if you have adequate coverage for your possessions. Many people find out after a loss that they were not sufficiently covered, and should have purchased higher coverage amounts or replacement cost coverage. A good rule of thumb is to add up how much it would cost to replace your belongings, and then compare it to your policy's personal property limit. This is an indicator of whether or not you need to purchase additional coverage.

It's also a good idea to check the claim settlement methods on your policy. If you've purchased replacement cost coverage, your settlement allows you to buy new items to replace the damaged or stolen ones. If you have actual cash value coverage, you receive what your items are worth at the time of the loss – taking into account depreciation.

More helpful tips

Be complete with your inventory. An effective way to do an inventory is to split the area of your house and take one room at a time. Start outside and take views of each side of your house, including the landscaping. Make sure to include all items in a storage shed or garage, like children's bikes and sporting goods.

Move inside the home and cover one room at a time. You might want to start with artwork or wall hangings and then move onto the floor. Remember to include all high-valued items like antiques, collectibles, silverware and jewelry.

Electronics are a key part of any personal property inventory. TVs, stereos and personal computers should be included, as well as clothing, CDs, tapes, furniture and items inside china cabinets and storage bins.

As you videotape each item, it's important that you verbally state when each item was purchased, its value, any special features and the model and serial number. If you choose to photograph these items instead of videotaping them, write all pertinent information on the backs of the pictures.

When the inventory is complete

Once you've completed the inventory, copy everything including paper lists, videotapes, receipts, computer printouts, appraisals and photos. Store one set in a secure place in your home, and store the other off the premises in a safe deposit box or with a friend or relative.

Update your inventory every four to six months to ensure that the information is accurate and reflects all items in the home. Save all the receipts for newly purchased items, and make sure to update your inventory as soon as you make a major purchase and delete the items you no longer have.

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