What's the Deal: Documenting your belongings for insurance

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The prospect of having to catalog every thing you own for insurance purposes is daunting even to think about. (WPVI)

If you ever fall victim to a flood or a fire and have to replace all of your belongings, you'll need to come up with a detailed inventory of what you had, in order to process a claim.

The prospect of having to catalog every thing you own and in detail is daunting even to think about. The good news is, Consumer Reports says there is a fairly simple way to handle it.

When a raging fire ripped through this apartment complex back in December, homeowner Mariela Dabbah found it painful to watch.

"The Red Cross came that night, to find out that we were all okay, you know, that we had a place to stay," she recalled.

Once the smoke had cleared, Mariela felt grateful to be safe, but not at all prepared to untangle the insurance mess that followed.

"I had no receipts or no list of things that I owned," she said.

Financial Experts at Consumer Reports say one of the best ways to document your belongings for insurance purposes is with a video.

"It doesn't have to be complicated, you can even use the camera on your phone," said Tobie Stanger from Consumer Reports.

Try to capture everything you own. Opening closets, cabinets and drawers, describing what you see as you record.

Be sure to include what's in your bookcase, art that's hanging on the walls, and major appliances.

And, capture brand names and serial numbers, so your insurer can replace what you had with exact - or similar items.

"Focus on what's valuable. You can skip the cleaning supplies in a closet, for instance. An insurance adjuster is likely to create a 'bulk estimate' for those things anyway," said Stanger.

Then, put the video onto a thumb drive and upload it into the cloud, or stash it in a safe place, so it's there when you need it.

Consumer Reports says several insurers also offer customers free, web-based tools to guide you thru the inventory process.

To read the full report from Consumer Reports, CLICK HERE.

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