Spring in the air – so it’s time to roll up your sleeves and give the house and backyard a thorough clean up. One task that you’re probably dreading is going through the mounds of paperwork that are gathering dust in folders, files and drawers around the home.

Perhaps you’re putting off sorting through your paperwork because you’re not sure what to keep – and for how long. Obviously, you need to hang onto documents like birth certificates and current passports. But there are others that you’re probably hanging onto because you don’t know what else to do with them.

That doesn’t mean that you should throw out all your hard copies of documents. Here are some general guidelines about which documents you should keep filed away – and how long you should keep them.

What important documents should you keep – and for how long?

  • Your home’s Contract of Sale: Keep it as long you own the property.
  • Vehicle registration: Keep it as long as you own the car.
  • Insurance policies: Keep your most recent policy.
  • Tax records, including receipts: Keep for seven years after filing the tax return.
  • Wills and Power of Attorney: Keep the most updated version.
  • Bank statements: Because bank, savings and credit card statements are generally stored online, you don’t need to keep your paper copies very long. In fact, if you haven’t done so already it’s a good idea to cancel paper copies. Not only will you save some trees, but you’ll also avoid paying a fee for a paper copy.

Getting help

If you have any questions about whether you should keep a document, you might want to get advice from a lawyer. Or if you get audited and need to provide tax records and receipts, an accountant can help you by explaining what documents you need and guiding you throughout the audit process.