Insurance 101: Making and storing a personal property inventory is a snap

posted May 12, 2011, 11:16 AM by jon curtis
If your home was destroyed in a fire or you suffered a theft could you construct a complete list of all your possessions from memory?  Most people could not, but it’s something you would need to do at the time you file a claim.  Would the insurance company accept your word that you owned that 24 karat gold necklace from Barbados?  They likely would if you had a picture of the necklace with some personal ID in the frame.

Ideally, you would make a complete list now, assign values, and store the list offsite so it would survive in the event of a fire.  But most of us do not plan well for loss situations that may happen at some indeterminate date in the future.  We put it off.  We never do it.  There is an intermediate step that takes far less time to implement and gives you the memory cues you need to produce an accurate list if it becomes necessary.

The rise of free photo hosting at web sites like Google’s Picassa Web or Facebook makes cataloging your possessions easier than ever.  Using your digital camera set to a reasonable 1MB resolution you can snap pictures of the rooms in your home, your closet full of clothes, your china cabinet, and jewelry laid out on your bed next to your driver’s license.  One picture is said to be worth a thousand words and in this case one or two pictures can provide an inventory of the major contents of an entire room.

Once you complete the photography of your home and high value items, open an account at one of the free photo hosting services on the internet and upload your photos.  Typical sites let you keep 1GB of photos (that’s 1000 1MB photos) stored in the internet’s cloud servers for free indefinitely.  Better yet, upload your photos to two different providers in case one of the sites goes bankrupt.  Now you have the evidence to use in making your list safely stored offsite if something bad happens.  The photos can also be used to help convince the insurance company that you actually owned the lost item(s).

Most of the photo sites handle security with a default to private so that only you can view your photos.  Facebook is different in that it’s designed to share photos with at least your facebook friends.  But you can set the privacy on an album to “only me” under the “edit album” settings to customize privacy.  This prevents your friends from trolling through your inventory.

Recovering from a loss is never fun but having a secure off-site photo inventory of your possessions goes a long way toward ensuring that you get the money you deserve in the event of a claim.