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Be prepared for disaster. A household inventory of your personal property is one of the most important things you can do as a consumer to prevent problems if you have to file a claim.

A complete and current inventory will ensure that you have sufficient coverage if you have to a claim. It will assist you in dealing with your insurance carrier and may help prevent disagreements. After a loss, many homeowners discover that they don't have enough personal property coverage or they are unable to document their loss. An updated inventory can help prevent either of these possibilities.

A household inventory that is prepared before a loss and kept current with annual reviews provides protection for you and your family. And it's easy to do. First, make a list of all the rooms in your house. Then simply go room-to-room, listing your possessions and jotting down supporting information. At a minimum, the list should contain a complete description of the item, the estimated value of the item, the price you paid when the item was purchased, and any other details that will help you document its worth. Expensive items should always be itemized separately.

Here are some other key points to remember:

  • Be specific. Cite serial numbers, brand names or model numbers whenever you can.
  • Be honest. Stick to the best recollection you have of purchase costs if you no longer have receipts. Remember that an adjuster's question about one item on your list might raise questions about other items.
  • When you buy expensive items, such as a computer, big-screen TV or expensive sports equipment, make sure you keep the receipt with your records in a safe place.
  • Back up your inventory with photographs or video. Photograph or video each room and its contents, leaving closet and cabinet doors open.
  • If you have the capability, record the inventory on a computer disc and store at least one copy with your photographs or video tape.
  • Store those photos or video tapes and a copy of your inventory in a safe place outside your home. (A safe-deposit box works best, but you don't have to go to that expense. A secure file or firebox inside your desk at work also is a good place.)
  • Keep one copy of the inventory at home - and remember to update it at least once a year. Use a specific date, like the beginning of Daylight Saving Time or one person's birthday, as a family reminder.

ALSO REMEMBER: Don't wait for disaster to strike before you sit down and figure out what your possessions are worth. Do it today!

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