Why you should know what your possessions are worth

House and calculator atop $20 bills

If your home was destroyed today, would you be able to prove what was in it and how much it was worth? What if your home was burglarized?

Without a home inventory, it may be difficult to substantiate a claim for the full amount of your loss. With a home inventory, the claims process is more likely to go smoothly and to result in your quick receipt of a claims check for a fair amount.

A home inventory documents what you own and its value.

It includes photos or video of all your possessions. It then backs up the visual evidence with an itemized list that includes important items’ date and place of purchase, model numbers, serial numbers, descriptions, original prices and receipts.

If you don’t have all of this information for each item, include as much as you can.

Any high-value items should be photographed or recorded separately from wider shots.

For example, a shot of the inside of the closet would be enough to give a general idea of the value of your wardrobe, but if you have a collectible, autographed baseball jersey hanging in there, you should document its individual value in addition to documenting your wardrobe as a whole.

If you’ve had anything appraised, keep a copy of the appraisal document along with your inventory in a safe place where they won’t be destroyed if you lose your home.

State Farm’s Home Inventory Checklist, available for free online, can help you get started. It provides a room-by-room list of commonly owned items and spaces to fill in their value and the date you purchased them.

For a higher-tech option, check out the Insurance Information Institute’s free Know Your Stuff home inventory.

The company stores your information online to keep it safe and to allow you to access it remotely.

If you store your only copy of your home inventory on your computer, it won’t be of much use if your computer is stolen.

The software allows users to upload photos, receipts and other documents to substantiate their lists. You can sort your inventory by room or by category or view the whole thing at once. In addition, you can print these reports or export them to Excel.

An added benefit of preparing a home inventory is that it can help you determine if you have too much -- or too little insurance.

Add up the total value of the items in your inventory, then compare this total to the amount your insurance policy covers. If you want to be able to replace everything in the event of a total loss, make sure you have replacement cost coverage for at least as much as the total value of your inventory.

Finally, if you are eligible to claim the loss as a tax deduction, a home inventory provides the documentation you’ll need to back up your claim if you’re audited.

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