How Long Should I Keep Bills, Receipts, Bank Statements and Insurance Policies?

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Pending Claims

The one caveat to all of this is whether or not you have a pending or an ongoing claim that is being worked as part of the policy you are thinking of throwing away.

If you have a pending claim, or an existing one, be sure that you have that insurance policy paperwork on-hand, even if it has expired, as you may have to reference it as you are going through the claims process.

Knowing when you can purge any old documentation is very important as a consumer. You do not want to have to keep papers upon papers for years over time.

The quicker that you can get rid of this stuff, the more organized you are going to be.

Only retain your documents for as long as necessary before replacing them with your automatically renewed car insurance policies.

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Filing a Claim

Death benefits are not paid out automatically from a life insurance policy. The beneficiary must first file a claim with the life insurance company. Depending on the insurance company’s policies, this may be done online or it may require a paper claims filing. No matter how you end up filing, the company normally requires paperwork and supporting evidence to process the claim and payout.

Your beneficiaries may be required to provide a copy of the policy, along with the claims form. They must also submit a certified copy of the death certificate, either through the county or municipality or through the hospital or nursing home in which the insured died.

“The death certificate has to be submitted to the insurance company address listed in the policy along with a statement of claim, which is sometimes called a request for benefits, signed by the beneficiary,” says retired insurance lawyer Luke Brown.

Policies owned by revocable or irrevocable trusts must ensure that the insurance company has a copy of the trust document identifying the owner and the beneficiary, adds Bernstein.

There's no set deadline for how long you have to file a life insurance claim but the sooner you do so, the better.

State Laws

State laws vary, but generally require insurance agents to keep copies of their customer’s policies for 6–7 years. Since a nonprofit can’t always count on having access to the insurance agent’s files when needed, each nonprofit should also maintain copies of expired policies.

General Liability

General liability is a type of coverage most businesses must have for their own protection. Policies can help ensure that you do not have to pay the hefty expenses of out-of-court litigation, settlements, or judgements awarded by the courts. General liability insurance for businesses helps safeguard business owners against unexpected risks that could result in financial disaster. Keep your general liability policies forever to remain protected against the unknown.

Save money for long-term care

If you have robust savings, you could plan to pay for long-term care out of pocket.

  • Pro: You don’t risk paying for insurance that you may never use.
  • Con: A few years of care could put a big dent in your savings, leaving less money for your heirs. You could also run out of money. In that case, you could apply for coverage through Medicaid, which would pay for nursing home care. But then your options would be limited to facilities that accept Medicaid patients. And the program doesn’t pay for assisted living in every state.

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In a nutshell

You don’t have to hold on to old, null, void, or expired insurance policy documents until there is a real need for future reference. While retaining all your car insurance-related documents in your records is not realistic, you need to hold back on some of them based on the need. Car insurance documents can be discarded shortly after the policy has expired in most cases.

What You Need to Keep

The only thing that you really need to keep when it comes to car insurance documents is that of your most current insurance policy.

You really do not even need to have the full policy on-hand if you have a copy of what is known as the declarations page of the policy.

The policy’s declaration page is the page where you have all of your coverage summary on-hand.

When you need to know what you have for car insurance coverage, all you have to do is refer to that current declarations page and you will get your answer.

The current declarations page is where you are going to see:

  • Your policy number
  • The named insured on the policy
  • The cars that are covered
  • The limits that you have
  • Your deductibles

When and how long should you keep expired insurance policies?

While an expired or a lapsed insurance policy is considered null and void, the only reason why you should retain your expired car insurance policy is when there is a pending claim.

  • You should only keep the car insurance policy document for as long as it is required.

  • Ongoing or pending claims may require you to keep the policy until the claim is settled.

  • Managing old insurance policies is not necessary.

Until claims related to damages to your vehicle or third-party liabilities are accounted for and settled, you need to retain the expired car insurance policy. Once all claim-related issues of your expired are resolved, you may want to store it as a digital document in your email or other storage devices for future reference.

How long to keep insurance records

Bankrate looked at how long to keep insurance statements and saw that some of the most extensive ones, like your actual policy documents, do not need to be retained for more than a year. Once you have the new policy in hand, the old one can usually be tossed if you did not have a claim during your policy term. Any records from policies that are no longer in effect can also be discarded. For example, if you still have the documents for a vehicle you no longer have, it is unlikely you need to retain these documents.

You will usually receive a new set of policy documents annually, or in some cases, semi-annually. Once you have received these, it is no longer necessary to keep the old ones. It should be standard practice for you to file the new copies at the same time you discard the old ones.

If, for some reason, you accidentally discard current policy documents, do not worry. Your insurer will have copies of all paperwork on file, and you may be able to access them online as well. A quick call to your agent should be enough to be issued a new copy to replace the discarded one.

There is one important exception to these rules, however. If you have an open claim related to an accident or auto mishap, or there is a possibility that a claim might be opened against you by another driver, retain all insurance documents and anything related to the accident, such as repair bills or towing charges, until the claim is settled. This applies even if the policy is no longer active.

Claims can take years to be resolved. For example, if you are in an accident that includes medical costs, it may take several years to settle all the medical bills and invoices. In the meantime, you may have sold the vehicle and closed the insurance account. Keep your policy documents until you are sure there will be no more costs applied to the claim.

Payout Delays

There are several possible situations that may result in a delay in payment. Beneficiaries may face delays of six to 12 months if the insured dies within the first two years of the issuance of the policy. The reason: the one- to two-year contestability clause.

“Most policies contain this clause, which allows the carrier to investigate the original application to ensure fraud was not committed. As long as the insurance company cannot prove the insured lied on the application, the benefit will normally be paid,” says Huntley. Most policies also contain a suicide clause that allows the company to deny benefits if the insured dies by suicide during the first two years of the policy.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or mental health issues, get help now. You are not alone. If you or a loved one is contemplating suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or via live chat. It’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and provides free and confidential support.

Payments may also be delayed when homicide is listed on the insured’s death certificate. In this case, a claims representative may communicate with the detective assigned to the case to rule out the beneficiary as a suspect. The payout is held until any suspicion about the beneficiary’s involvement in the insured’s death is clear. If there are charges, the insurance company can withhold the payout until charges are dropped or the beneficiary is acquitted of the crime.

Delays to payouts may also arise if:

  • The insured party died during the course of illegal activity, such as driving under the influence.
  • The insured party lied on the policy application.
  • The insured omitted health issues or risky hobbies or activities like skydiving.

Insurance companies can delay payment for six to 12 months if the insured party dies within the first two years of the policy.

Occurrence Basis Insurance

Some insurance is written on an “occurrence” basis. With this type of policy, you are protected for any incident during the coverage period, even if it remains undiscovered and unclaimed until years afterward. Let’s say that in 1960, your family built a gas station and insured it against all hazards until 1970, when your family closed the station and the coverage lapsed. If the soil is discovered to be polluted in 2010 and you can prove it happened during the coverage period, the insurance company may have to pay the cost of cleanup. With occurrence-basis insurance, the safest thing to do is to keep copies of your policies indefinitely.

When to Retain Insurance Policies

Many companies have implemented records retention policies to ensure that they remain protected under essential business insurance policies. Occurrence-based liability insurance policies, such as business auto and commercial general liability, may be triggered far after the policy has expired. For this reason, occurrence-based liability policies should be retained forever and should not be discarded or destroyed.

While it is also wise to retain property policies forever, many businesses choose to retain these policies for a period of six years. This is because property losses are known after they occur so the need to retain these policies for extended periods of time is different than with occurrence-based liability policies.

Claims-made insurance policies, such as directors and officers’ liability insurance and professional liability, are only triggered by claims made against the insured business during the policy period and throughout the “tail” following the policy’s expiration. Most businesses agree that a reasonable retention period for such claims-made policies is approximately six years following the expiration of the tail period.

Other policies, such as workers compensation policies, should be retained forever. While it may be tempting to simply discard all of your business insurance policies, avoid making this mistake. You will want to hold onto these policies and keep them in a safe place where you can easily access them if needed.

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