Life happens fast and especially when you’re not ready. Fires, floods, mudslides, earthquakes. All of these things can come when you’re unprepared. That’s why it’s essential to safeguard important documents by storing copies in a safe place away from your home.
- photocopies of driver’s licenses
- marriage licenses
- birth/death certificates
- computer backups if you don’t use cloud backups
- credit card information
- mortgage/home equity/line of credit information
- social security cards
What do you do if you need to prove ownership of your property, and you cannot locate your ownership documents? Where can you obtain copies of your deed, deed of trust, warranty deed, or title policy? In order to rebuild or repair your home, you may need to prove ownership.
In most circumstances, your county courthouse will have copies of your property ownership documents, unless the courthouse also was damaged, such as occurred in Louisiana and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. Here’s how you might be able to track down replacement documentation:
- When your county courthouse is intact and undamaged, the county clerk can provide, for a fee, certified copies of your deed or mortgage showing that you own your home. If that’s not possible, there are other options.
- Contact your attorney, closing agent or real estate agent to obtain the name of the title company you worked with. They can put you in touch with the title underwriter that issued your Owner’s Title Insurance Policy.
- Contact your lender to ask if they can provide you with a copy of your mortgage. Your attorney or closing agent might have the name of your lender if you cannot locate it.
Now is a good time to make photocopies of your important homeownership documents (as well as your personal documents). One method is to scan your documents and save them to a disk or CD-ROM and send it to a trusted family member or friend who lives in a different part of the country. You could also provide a copy to your lawyer. Another method is to photocopy the documents and store the copies in a bank safe deposit box or home safe. In either case, to prevent likely water damage, seal the disks, CDs or documents in plastic storage bags. Hopefully, you will never have to rely on this information, but it’s good to know there are things you can do to prepare for an emergency.