Scanning records to PDF. What to keep in paper?
January 15, 2011 12:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm scanning my financial records to PDF with my new Fujitsu ScanSnap. (So wonderful.) Are there things I should keep in paper form, other than, say, my car title and social security card? What about my past tax returns?

I've seen this question and this question, neither of which really answers my question. I'm less interested in what I need to keep versus throw away (I'm a pack rat who will keep pretty much everything), and more interested to know what I need to keep in paper versus electronically. (This is for personal use, not a business.)
posted by raf to Work & Money (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Be sure to keep a secure backup since you will be getting rid of the hard copies. Get an Amazon S3 bucket and use it with Jungle Disk, or sync this folder to your Dropbox or some other reliable redundant backup service.
posted by special-k at 12:38 PM on January 15, 2011

I am a scanning packrat too. I keep the following as hard copies: recent proof of address (tricky as the traditional trustables like bank statements and utility bills are now purely online for me), employment-related documents from the last couple of years, receipts for items still in warranty, mortgage documents, original certificates, and various bits and bobs that feel important. The general question to ask is: if I had to show this document to somebody else, how would I feel about showing them a printout of the scanned copy?
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 12:54 PM on January 15, 2011

Response by poster: special-k: Yup, I agree completely, and that's what kept me from doing this for so long. The pdfs are on my dropbox and both on-site and off-site backups.
posted by raf at 12:58 PM on January 15, 2011

Response by poster: hoverboards don't work on water: What about old tax documents? That's the big one that's giving me pause.
posted by raf at 12:59 PM on January 15, 2011

You may or may not have any of the following, but if you do, they should always be kept in hard copy:

- Deeds to real property
- Leases of real property (can pitch after statute of limitations in your jurisdiction has run)
- Titles and/or leases of personal property tracked by the government (cars, boats, etc.)
- Passports (most recent one is probably enough unless you have a unique situation)
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Divorce decrees
- Death certificates (obviously not yours, but any family members' you may have in your possession)
- Social Security cards
- Any immigration or naturalization documents
- Any documents issued to you by a court or as part of litigation
- Any documentation related to a government benefits program (Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment, etc.)
- Actual financial instruments (stock certificates, bonds, etc.)
- Contracts where you are the one getting paid

That's all I can think of off the top of my head. Some of these are completely invalid if electronic--passports, etc.--but some will do just fine. But should you actually need to use the above, having a hard copy is really a heck of a lot less complicated, all things considered. Can you enforce a contract of which you only have an electronic copy? Yeah, but you'll have to go through some hoops to get that certified, etc., so having the original is going to save everyone time and money.

IANYL, etc.
posted by valkyryn at 1:04 PM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Old tax documents will probably be fine, but if there's anything at all unusual about your situation--and there probably is--you're going to want to contact a local expert, i.e. pay someone, before taking that plunge.
posted by valkyryn at 1:05 PM on January 15, 2011

Response by poster: valkyryn: Why leases?
posted by raf at 1:09 PM on January 15, 2011

raf, I imagine because a lease falls into the "contracts" bucket
posted by misterbrandt at 1:48 PM on January 15, 2011

If in doubt, keep it. All told, the really important stuff might amount to a couple hundred sheets. No reason to not add a couple more.
posted by gjc at 6:53 PM on January 15, 2011

Leases, like all conveyances of land, are subject to the Statute of Frauds, which requires that said contracts be in writing and signed by both parties.

Will an electronic copy of such a contract suffice? Probably, but it could be a bit of a pain getting that entered into evidence if the original was in hard copy. Again, you'll probably be okay, but as you're going to be keeping some documents in hard copy anyway, this seems to fall on the side of things it's just not worth messing with.
posted by valkyryn at 3:24 AM on January 16, 2011

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