Documenting your Possessions Personal Possessions

All businesses face the possibility of a fire, tornado, theft or other disaster. The emotional stress you would experience is one other element few people think about. Without looking around, take a moment to list everything in your office. Now try to do that for all of your company’s contents. Impossible! Even more would be forgotten if you were not in familiar surroundings and were under the stress of a disaster.

Compile an inventory. A personal property inventory provides detailed documentation of your assets and eases the claim process. Photograph the exterior and interior. Work room by room until you have captured all the contents. Take individual photos of collectables, fine art, etc. Remember to open closets, cupboards and drawers. Include model and serial numbers, cost and date purchased. Don’t forget any storage buildings!

Save time and money. The importance of this documentation is evidenced at one of the worst times in one’s life when you are facing a disaster. It can take months to list everything you own, and you are in limbo while compiling this information. If you have an inventory, and a disaster does happen, you can submit the claim quickly because most of the work is already completed. If you take months to complete your claims filing, and the lack of funds prevents you from a quick recovery, you could face another issue. How long will your employees wait for a paycheck? How long will your customers wait before they seek another vendor?

And once funds are received, will your claim be sufficient enough to fully recover? Many disaster victims state that they forgot thousands of dollars worth of items. When they did remember them, their one-year time-allotment had expired. According to the National Insurance Industry, policy holders who have a thorough inventory not only receive faster results when filing a claim, they also receive greater settlements. If you don’t remember what you own, you won’t request replacement; thus, you won’t fully recover. And for high-dollar items, you will most likely be required to show proof of ownership (i.e., big screen TV).

More than just disaster relief, a personal property inventory can serve a multitude of purposes for your business. Insurance agents, as well as many professionals such as lawyers, accountants, financial advisors and estate planners, encourage their clients to record their personal property. In addition to disasters, an inventory provides documentation needed for loss or damage in moving or storage, proper reporting of personal property taxes and when planning business mergers, purchases or dissolutions.

Seek assistance if you don’t want to do it yourself. Most people agree it is important, but few have this documentation. Reasons business owners have cited for not maintaining a personal property inventory are that are they are too busy, it takes too long, they don’t know how, or realize they will not keep it up to date if they do create one.

If you are in one of these categories, seek the assistance of a professional to provide the service for you. Verify they are bonded and insured. In addition to the inventory service, the provider should also include secure back-up of your records and a process in place to update your records annually. Without the updates, the report will be outdated very quickly. The cost of a professionally documented inventory is minor compared to the loss you could encounter!