How to Replace Lost, Stolen, or Destroyed Personal Paperwork

A comprehensive list of what to do and where to go to replace everything from your drivers license to your birth certificate.

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Imagine that your house burns down or gets completely destroyed by fire, flood or other disaster. Would you know how to go about replacing your essential paperwork?

Before the Internet came along, simple tasks like changing your address meant driving to the nearest the Post Office and filling out postcards in duplicate. Now there are much easier ways to accomplish nearly everything when it comes to organizing, protecting and replacing your essential stuff. Here’s a helpful list of links that can help you change your address, as well as replace your essential personal paperwork.

Protecting your paper

One way to protect some types of paperwork, as well as to get more organized, is to buy a cheap ($50 – $60) flatbed scanner like the Canon CanoScan LiDE 100 or Xerox 7600 OneTouch, scan your essential documents and keep digital copies. Obviously this solution can’t replace paperwork that has to be original, like a car title. But keeping digital copies of all documents is a good idea, and a super solution for paper that doesn’t have to be original, like receipts, insurance policies, etc. Creating digital copies allows you to save a lot of drawer space and keeps essential information much safer by storing digital images online.

Here are some free software programs and websites that will help you get your stuff organized and keep it that way.

  • Evernote is free document organization program available for both Mac and PC that keeps your data “in the cloud”. This means that everything you store in it is automatically backed up to their server online. Evernote also has versions of its software for the iPhone, Blackberry, Palm Pre, Windows Mobile and Android phones, letting you access your documents anywhere, any time.
  • Scribd is a free website where you can upload your important docs for safe keeping. This site is made for sharing documents with friends, so make sure anything you don’t want the whole world to see is marked as “Private” when you upload it.
  • Know Your Stuff is a free software program from the Insurance Information Institute that helps you create a home inventory: worth its weight in gold in case of disaster.
  • Adobe Reader is important for viewing all those PDF files you’ll soon be downloading, storing and creating

For more on going paperless, see 5 Tips for Paperless Finances

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