Whatever you celebrate in December, chances are you will acquire an expensive gift or two: a flat-screen TV, a camera, a laptop, jewelry, maybe even a puppy. Protect your new possessions from thieves, fires and all the other things that can beset them. In the case of the puppy, protect yourself from potential law suits should Fido turn out to be a biter. Take a few minutes to update your homeowners insurance checklist. (Renters, this applies to you, too. And if you don’t have renter’s insurance, get some quick. Renter’s insurance is cheap and some landlords are now requiring it.)
Remember that long inventory checklist your homeowners insurance agent gave you when you got your policy? Dig it out of the drawer you stashed it in and add your new items. If you neglected this important step, visit your insurance company’s website or ask your agent to email you another checklist. Having a detailed inventory of all your personal possessions including furniture, clothing, tools, electronics and appliances will be an invaluable help should you need to file a claim. While you’re going about this task, review your policy’s exclusions and limitations. Some items (really expensive jewelry, heirloom jewelry, works of art, furs, coin, stamp and similar valuable collections, and antiques come to mind) may require an additional rider on your homeowner policy. You may also find that coverage for certain possessions is inadequate to replace them at market value. This is sometimes the case with expensive computer equipment.
Ask the people who gave you the items to give you the receipts. If you like, you can assure them you aren’t taking their thoughtful gifts back. You just want to be able to prove an item’s value should you ever need to file a claim. If an item is extremely valuable, like an original painting from your rich Aunt Amanda, you may want to have it professionally appraised. Certain possessions depreciate in value while others appreciate. Your goal is to make sure your insurance company reimburses you for the actual cost to replace a damaged or stolen item whenever possible.
Unless it will have a negative effect on an item’s value, consider engraving your name on the item. If the item has its own serial number, include that on the checklist.
Can’t be bothered with a written checklist? Do it digitally using a camera or camcorder. At the same time, you can mark or record the value of each thing.
Keep your records safe. Store your inventory check list, receipts and visual inventory off premises like in a bank safe deposit box. You’ll have everything you need to file a homeowner insurance claim quickly.