A guide to safekeeping and managing paper records

What to keep, where to store, and when to shred

Following is a discussion of what you need to keep, where we recommend you keep it, and when you can discard it.
Keeping these records stored safely, where you and others can find them, can save you time, and greatly increases the
likelihood that they will not get lost or misfiled.

Permanent records

For permanent records and documents that cannot be easily replaced, the originals should be stored in a safe and secured place, with protection from water, fire, and theft. A bank safe deposit box should be used for storing documents that are infrequently used and are not needed on short notice. Originals required more often can be stored in a fire and burglar resistant safe. Following is a list of original documents which would require safekeeping on a permanent basis.

Adoption papers
Birth certificate
Cemetery deed
Citizenship papers
Death certificate
Divorce decree
Guardianship arrangements

Health/immunization records
Household inventory with photos
Insurance policy/invoices
Letter of last instructions
Marriage certificate
Medical directive
Military discharge

Naturalization certification
Power of attorney
Social Security card
Trust document
Veteran’s papers

The original documents should never be discarded unless they are updated or replaced. Copies of these documents should be provided to the appropriate individuals (trustees, executors, attorneys, etc.) Also, you may want to consider scanning the originals and saving a copy electronically to a storage device or secured web based filing system.

Temporary records

For temporary documents, such as tax and other financial records, these items can be typically stored in a locked filing cabinet. These items should be retained while they are current and active. You will have the ability to destroy these items once they become outdated. If any of the documents listed below related to an item of income, deduction, or basis that you reported on your tax return, you may need to keep them long after the underlying asset or income is gone in order to support your tax filings. For detailed record keeping information related to tax returns and their supporting documents, refer to IRS Publication 17 (Chapter 1, What Happens After I File?). For other documents, a general time frame for keeping records is seven years. An attorney in your state can tell you if the time period should be longer based on state law.

Annuity contract
Bank statement
College financial aid
Credit card statement
Employment contract
Form 8606
Home/real estate purchases and improvements*

Investment account statement
Loan agreement/statement
Pension/Retirement plan documents
Personal property tax receipt
Property tax assessment
Receipt (items under warranty)

Receipt (expensive items)
Social Security statement
Stock/bond certificate
Tax return/supporting documents
Vehicle title/registration
Warranty (with stapled receipt)

*Deeds, surveys, title policies, blueprints, loan papers, homeowner’s warranty, receipts, etc.

To assist with document management and file retention, following are additional points to consider:

  • To prevent additional time searching, it is advisable to keep an updated inventory list of all permanent and temporary files.
  • Shredding is one of the best ways to dispose of outdated records and files. Invest in a personal shredder or engage a professional shredding service to discard items.
  • Shred items that contain social security and account numbers, birth dates, or any other sensitive personal information.
  • If you have a question about what to keep or when to discard a certain item, contact your tax advisor or attorney.

Wells Fargo Advisors is not a tax or legal advisor. This information is intended to provide a general overview of document retention. Sources include National Association of Professional Organizers; International Association of Registered Financial Consultants; Sterck Kulik O’Neill Accounting Group, Inc.; and Edelman Financial Services. It is not intended to provide tax, accounting, or legal advice of any type. Please consult with your tax or legal advisor for advice about your particular situation.

Wells Fargo Advisors is a trade name used by Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC and Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, LLC, Members SIPC, separate registered broker-dealers and non-bank affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company. © 2012-2014, 2016, 2019 Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC. All rights reserved. IHA-6402505


Moran Wealth Management and Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network are not a legal or tax advisor. However, we will be glad to work with you, your accountant, tax advisor and or attorney to help you meet your financial goals.