Getting Organized in 2017 — What to Keep and What to Pitch

Happy 2017! I am hoping to make blogging a more consistent part of my practice this year.

As we all organize ourselves for the year ahead, clean out the old to make room for the new, and prepare our 2016 tax returns, I thought I would share some tips on what personal documents you should keep and what you don’t need cluttering up your home office.

Of course, these are general guidelines, and certain documents in your possession may not be listed here.  When in doubt, retain a document for 10 years, as that time-frame generally exceeds most statutes of limitations.  When purging documents, be sure to shred any that contain your sensitive information.

Personally, we keep the “permanent” records in a fireproof safe, although some prefer a safe deposit box.  Our tax records are on their own shelf in our attic.  And, all of the current/active documents have a place in our filing system until they are either shredded or moved to the tax file.

Keep Permanently and in a Safe Place

  • Birth Certificates
  • Adoption Papers
  • Social Security Card
  • Current Passport
  • Marriage License
  • Divorce Decrees
  • Advance Medical Directive
  • Durable General Powers of Attorney
  • Wills/Trusts
  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Death Certificates
  • Records of Paid Mortgages
  • Retirement Pension/401k/IRA Records (keep quarterly statements until receipt of the annual statement, then shred the quarterly statements)

What to keep for 3-7 years

  • Income Tax Returns  (the IRS has three years from your filing date to audit your return if it suspects good-faith errors or if you need to amend your return to claim a refund, however, the IRS has six years to challenge your return if it thinks you underreported your gross income by 25 percent or more; there is no time limit if you failed to file your return or filed a fraudulent return).
  • Medical Bills and Cancelled Insurance Policies
  • Records of Selling a House (documentation for Capital Gains Tax)
  • Records of Selling a Stock (documentation for Capital Gains Tax)
  • Receipts, Cancelled Checks and other Documents that Support Income or a Deduction on your Tax Return
  • Annual Investment Statement

What to keep for 1 year, or until you file your taxes for that calendar year

  • Paycheck Stubs (until you receive your Form W-2/1099)
  • Utility Bills (unless needed for tax purposes, then 7 years after filing the return)
  • Cancelled Checks (unless needed for tax purposes and then you need to keep for 7 years)
  • Credit Card Receipts (unless needed for tax purposes and then you need to keep for 7 years)
  • Bank Statements (unless needed for tax purposes and then you need to keep for 7 years)
  • Quarterly Investment Statements (until you get your annual statement)

What to keep for 45 days or until you receive your monthly statement

  • ATM receipts
  • Receipts for purchases (unless needed for tax purposes, then 7 years after filling the return)
  • Ordinary non-tax related bills (until payment is verified upon receipt of the next bill)

What to Keep While Active

  • Unpaid Bills
  • Current Bank Statements
  • 529 plan documentation and statements
  • Health Benefit Information
  • Insurance Policies
  • Receipts for Items that May be Returned
  • Health Records
  • Appliance Warranties/Receipts
  • Any Documentation Relating to Outstanding Loans (e.g., car loan, student loan, etc.)

Sources and further reading:

IRS website,

U.S. Govt. Publication,

Consumer Reports.

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For assistance with your business, employment, estate planning, probate matters, or trust administration, call the Law Office of Ada-Marie Aman (804.467.1875) or contact me here.

Ada-Marie Aman

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[The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Being general in nature, the information and materials provided may not apply to any specific factual and/or legal set of circumstances. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. Nothing on this blog is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.]