Why did I not buy that generator?

If you've ever been huddled in your safe space during a storm, a lot thoughts run through your head. How bad will it get? Will we be safe? Will the lights go out? Why did I not buy that generator? How extensive is the damage? Will I need to make an insurance claim? Do I have all the information I needed to replace my fine wine collection?

Well maybe your collection is different.

Last fall, Dallas was hit with sporadic tornadoes that destroyed homes and businesses. In the aftermath, I listened to friends and clients share their frustrations with making insurance claims. A friend in real estate talked about how her clients were struggling to account for the value of their lost items. Most did not have a complete record of their home’s contents and valuables, making the task almost impossible.

So, I decided to document the valuables in my own home. Here is what I’ve learned:

1) Know what your homeowners insurance policy covers and the requirements for making a claim. Whether it’s damage, theft or a personal liability, insurance will usually want and perhaps even require:

- Description of item with product and serial numbers

- Date of purchase

- Receipt or Value of Item

2) Start by making an itemized list of your items and valuables. The good news is “there’s an app for that” — several in fact that can make cataloging less painful.

I like Nest Egg based on the numerous reviews, cataloging options and features. It lets you scan the UPC code and bring up most of the information you need. You can also manually enter the information.

Once everything is uploaded, you can back up the record on your device or in Nest Egg’s cloud.

Note: Nest Egg is only available for iOS. Android users might consider Sortly, which is very similar to Nest Egg.

3) Make a video inventory of your home documenting each room including the exterior and garage. Be sure to point out big/valuable items in each room as you video, going slowly to catch anything you may have missed on your itemized list. The video/pictures will help confirm you have everything included.

4) Gather big purchase receipts, photos and/or appraisals — anything your insurance company requires — to round out your inventory. If you do not have the receipt your insurance company may allow you to use credit card statements for certain items. Check with your insurance company for procedures when documentation cannot be provided.

5) Compile all this information into one resource and store in multiple safe locations. Remember that in a worst case scenario a physical list may be unreachable or destroyed.

Make copies (or digitally share) for your safety deposit box or home fire safe.

Consider providing a copy to a trusted friend or family member

Once your inventory is completed and backed up in multiple locations, you might be able to toss all that paper and free up some closet space.

7) Remember to update your inventory periodically. Set a reminder to review your list annually. It’s also good to update after big purchases or renovations.

Taking the time to understand what your policy covers and specific information needed to make a claim, as well as creating a home inventory can be invaluable if disaster strikes and perhaps make getting back to normal just a bit easier.

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