Often during the course of notarizing a loan document or trust, I’m asked by the client how long should they keep the document and how they should store it.

According to financial experts, it varies depending on the document.

Some documents like wills, trusts and powers of attorney should never be discarded and are best stored in a safe-deposit box with other important papers like birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, military discharge papers and social security cards.
It’s also recommended that copies of the will, trust or powers of attorney be given to the attorney or executor of the estate and an extra copy should be maintained at home for ease of reference.

If the document is related to a loan, like a home mortgage, vehicle or student loan, the documents should be kept until paid off.  Once the loan is paid off, retain the documentation proving it was paid in full and keep that in a secure location like a safe-deposit box.

Some documents, like tax filings, fall under statutes of limitations.  In the case of tax returns, it is recommended to keep them for 7 years, the maximum time in which the IRS can order an audit if they suspect fraud.

For a complete list of document categories and recommendations, see these helpful guides:

Consumer Reports Money Advisor – Conquer the Paper Piles
Suze Orman – Financial Clutter, What to Keep and What to Get Rid Of

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