Documenting your possessions, just in case
If your home burns down, would you know exactly what you lost?
And could you prove it?
Paul Quinn, assistant vice president of claims communication at Farmers Insurance, suggests getting some video now. Consider it for your year-end to-do list (or make it a New Year's resolution, if your December is already packed).
"Take a room-by-room, walking inventory," said Quinn, who blogs about insurance issues (including this one). "Say 'we're now walking into the kitchen' and just briefly describe what you're showing. The same thing with every room throughout the house, including closets. One of the things that's important is, 'How many suits did I have' or 'How many dresses did I have?' If you show the vastness of the closet, that helps prepare you."
You don't necessarily have to say how much you paid for items. But showing bar codes and serial numbers is helpful. So is naming names.
"We expect people to have average furniture, so if it's something you bought at an upscale place, [say], 'This is an insert-the-name-of-the-chair-here that we purchased at insert-the-name-of-the-store-here.'"
You don't need to get "hung up on the minutia," Quinn said. Show the pantry, for instance, but don't start describing every can of food. And you don't have to list every video game you (or your kids) own, but do show how many you have.
"If you have a picture that shows you have three, you can't really be in a position to say you have 500," he said.
Remember to get video or photographs of the exterior, too. The damage from a fire or other disaster could extend to your landscaping and outdoor furniture.
"The more you have in a video setting, the better off you are," said Quinn, who suggests updates every year or when you make major purchases.
Important final tip: Store the video, or a copy of the video, outside your home. Bank safe deposit box, a relative's computer, etc.
"There's two major benefits for doing this thing in advance," Quinn said. "It does help you go through the adjustment process, but it also helps to remind you, 'This is what I had.' So ... you don't have to say six months later, 'Oh, wait a minute, I forgot about this.' It just gives you a very comfortable and secure feeling: 'OK, if anything happens, I've got everything ready to talk.'"