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Important Records: Medical and Legal



  • You need to keep financial, identification, legal, health, and other important records for yourself and your family members.
  • It is a good idea to keep important records in a bank safety deposit box or in a waterproof and fireproof box if you keep them in your home.


You need to keep several documents in a safe place where you can find them when needed. It is a good idea to keep important records in a waterproof and fireproof box.

Legal Records

The records to keep in a safe place include:

  • Bank and credit card account numbers
  • Contracts, home or other real estate deeds, lease or loan papers, bills of sale, car titles, mortgage records, stocks, and bonds
  • School records including report cards, degrees and certificates, transcripts
  • Family records including birth certificates or proof of citizenship, marriage and death certificates, divorce papers, adoption records, and military service records
  • Financial statements including tax returns and accountant information
  • Insurance policies
  • Inventory of household possessions and their value (with photos)
  • List of important phone numbers including personal contacts and numbers for insurance, credit cards, or banks
  • Passports, social security cards, and immunization records
  • Wills, advance directives (living will), and durable power of attorney records

Keep unpaid bills until paid. Keep paid bills (power, water, phone) and current bank statements until you get the next statement. Keep information you need for income taxes, such as real estate taxes, medical bills, canceled checks, and W2 forms for 3 years. If you have a problem with unpaid taxes or other tax concerns, keep tax records for 7 years.

Shred outdated paper records to help prevent identity theft.

It is also a good idea to keep copies of house keys, car keys, and other keys you may need.

Birth Certificate

Your child's birth certificate is legal proof of date of birth and citizenship. The birth certificate is needed to start school, to get a driver's license, or to get a passport. It may also be needed to prove the right to vote, marry, get Social Security benefits, travel on an airplane, or to inherit property.

The staff at the hospital where your baby is born will register the birth with the local health department or registrar of births. If you have a home birth, be sure someone registers the birth.

You will receive notice when the birth record is filed. This notice is usually a copy of the registration or the birth certificate. Check to make sure the information is correct. Contact the vital records office in the state where your child was born to find out how to correct mistakes right away.

Make a few copies of the birth certificate. Keep at least one in a safe place such as a waterproof, fireproof box, or a safety deposit box.

Social Security Number

Most hospitals will give you the forms you need to get a Social Security card and number for your baby. You can also get the form and instructions online at You will need a Social Security number to claim your child as a dependent on your tax return, to open a bank account, or to buy savings bonds. Some schools and government agencies may also require that you provide this number.

Health Records

Keep accurate health records for all members of the family. They are useful when you apply for health and life insurance. They also help healthcare providers know if certain diseases run in your family.

Family health records should include:

  • Name, date of birth, blood type, and date of last checkup
  • Immunization (shot) card with exact dates and types of all vaccines, needed for children to be admitted to school
  • Any mental health or medical conditions
  • Any medicines or supplements taken with dosages
  • Injuries, when they happened, and any treatment received
  • Hospitalizations with dates, diagnoses, and treatments
  • Screening tests such as tests to check vision and hearing, and any allergy testing, with dates and results
  • Healthcare provider names and contact information
  • Health insurance information
  • The dates and places of birth, medical history such as diabetes, mental health problems, high blood pressure, major illnesses, and cause of death for all close family members
  • Any food or drug allergies including reactions to vaccinations
  • Advance directives such as a living will, healthcare power of attorney, and whether you want to be an organ donor

If you keep records on your computer, back up your system regularly. You could use a thumb drive, an online service, or a CD that can be kept in your fireproof box. Check each year to make sure your records are up to date. Keep separate records of user names and passwords for accounts.

Some computer apps and online services can help make it easier to keep your family’s health records up to date. To keep your electronic records secure, follow these tips:

  • Use strong passwords and never share them with anyone.
  • Always log out when you leave the site.
  • Keep your security, firewall, and encryption software up to date.
  • Do not use a public Wi-Fi site, such as when in airports, coffee houses and stores, to send or receive personal records.
  • Take steps to prevent laptops and mobile devices from being stolen or lost.

You should carry some records with you when you leave the house:

  • Driver's license
  • Organ donor card
  • Who to notify in case of an emergency
  • Information on allergies, health problems and medicines you take
  • Health, accident, and car insurance information
  • Credit cards
Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2022.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2022-01-03
Last reviewed: 2019-06-24
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2022 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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