It may seem strange, a shredding service provider advising you not to shred your confidential materials. While we certainly do recommend a Shred Everything policy for all documents you no longer need, there are some things you shouldn’t shred.
At the forefront of things you shouldn’t shred comes all documents and identification materials that you will likely need for your entire lifetime. Or, at least, a significant portion of it.
Do not shred birth certificates and adoption certificates.
One document you should never shred is your birth certificate or the birth certificates of any dependants. Your birth certificate is very likely to be required throughout your lifetime, whether you’re trying to obtain a passport, attempting to prove your identity or even applying for certain jobs.
The same goes for adoption certificates. Once someone is adopted, their adoption certificate legally replaces their original birth certificate. For any official purpose, such as obtaining a passport, an adoption certificate will be required. This is because the original birth certificate will have been amended to indicate adoption has occurred. Thus, it is no longer a reflection of the adoptee’s legal identity.
Do not shred marriage or civil partnership certificates, prenuptial agreements, or divorce paperwork.
Other documents you shouldn’t shred includes all documents regarding your marriage or civil partnership, prenuptial agreements, and divorce. There are many reasons for this.
If you changed your name when you married, you will need your marriage certificate to update your name on identification documents, visas, and things like bank accounts. You’ll also need your marriage certificate for any joint finances, health and life insurance policies, and to benefit from the tax perks that marriage allows.
While unpleasant to think about, you should also keep your marriage certificate just in case you ever need to apply for a divorce. As of 2020, 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce. So that’s another, albeit bleak, reason to keep your marriage certificate safe. You should also keep prenuptial agreements. These ensure both parties and their assets are covered in the event of a marriage breakdown.
If you have accidentally – or even purposefully – destroyed your marriage certificate, you can request a new one from the government’s General Register Office. The same goes for your birth certificate or death certificates of family members.
Divorce paperwork should also be kept forever. You may need to prove you are no longer married when doing things like taking out loans and buying or selling property. If you ever want to remarry, you may not even be able to get a marriage license without proving you are divorced from a previous partner.
Do not shred expired passports.
If your passport has expired, do not shred or throw it away. You need information from expired passports to renew them. It’s also advisable to keep long-expired passports, even after renewal. This is because they provide a timeline of your citizenship and international movements.
Do not shred wills or death certificates.
When someone dies, their property, money and possessions are usually left to family members. These assets are distributed depending on the conditions outlined in the person’s will. Wills can be challenged up to six months from the grant of probate. All wills and codicils must be retained just in case a challenge is made. There is also the issue of Inheritance Tax.
If someone’s estate is worth over a certain sum (currently £325,000 in the UK), it may be subject to Inheritance Tax. The beneficiaries will pay this tax as a percentage of the estate value over £325,000. In the UK, HM Revenue and Customs can ask to see your records up to 20 years after paying Inheritance Tax. For this reason, you will need to keep copies of any wills, copies of Inheritance Tax forms, supporting documents, property valuations, final accounts, and documents showing any unused Inheritance Tax threshold. Keeping these documents safe is very important. It can save a lot of hassle further down the line if asked for copies.
You should also keep the death certificates of any close relatives forever. If you have power of attorney, you’ll need death certificates to access and close estates, arrange burials, and generally act on behalf of the deceased.
Do not shred life insurance policy paperwork.
Another document you should never shred is your active life insurance policy paperwork. Sources estimate between £15bn-£20bn worth of unclaimed life insurance benefits exists in the UK. While not particularly pleasant to think about, if you do pass away or suffer from a life-altering injury, it’s important that your loved ones know about and can find any life insurance policies you have in place for them.
Other insurance policies should also be kept in a safe place for as long as your policies remain active or while any claims are being processed.
Do not shred pension plans.
As with life insurance policies, your loved ones may be entitled to your unspent pension when you die. Whether you have a private pension, a workplace pension, or are already drawing your state pension, you should keep hold of your policy details. This will make it easier for your loved ones to access any pension funds they are entitled to.
Do not shred home purchase and maintenance documents.
The documents you receive from your bank or solicitor when buying a house should also be kept. This is especially important if you are one day planning on selling the house. The same goes for any building work or maintenance you do on the property. Some of these documents include stamp duty land tax or land transaction tax records, the purchase contract, solicitor’s letters and documents, and the contract of sale. If you ever have to attend court for reasons regarding your property, original copies of these documents may be required.
It is also advisable to keep any important mortgage documents for the duration of your mortgage.
Do not shred exam results or qualification certificates.
It may seem obvious, but you should never shred any exam results or qualification certificates you’ve received. This applies even if the certificates are decades old. You cannot get a replacement certificate for O levels, CSEs, GCSEs or A-Levels in the UK. You can only receive a certified statement of results from the exam boards that hold your results. With many different exam boards out there, this could be costly. Keeping your certificates in a safe place is a much better option. You may need these for job applications and proof of qualifications.
Documents you should keep for long periods.
As well as the above, there are also documents you may need to keep for long periods until it’s okay to shred them. Shredding these documents prematurely could cause significant inconvenience if you discover they are needed.
Vehicle registration documents/logbook.
You should keep these as long as you own the vehicle.
If you do have a paper copy of your property deed, you should keep this as long as you own the property. Most deeds are now digital and so are quite easy to replace. However, if you do have a paper copy, these are likely to be the original deeds. Original deeds tend to contain extra information about the property such as legal boundaries. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to keep these safe.
Insurance policy documents.
You should keep insurance policy documents for the duration of your policy, and beyond if you have any open claims. You should also keep things like proof of no-claims. If you are planning to renew your insurance or switch providers, you will likely have to provide proof of no claims to receive a discount on your policy. Once you no longer need these documents, it is best to shred them with a fully accredited supplier.
Tax returns and records.
If you are an employee, you should keep your tax records for 22 months after the tax year the tax return is for. You should keep:
- Documents such as your P45 if you leave a job
- Your P60
- A P11D if applicable
- Certificates for any Taxed Award Schemes
- Information about any redundancy or termination payments
- Details of any tips received
- Any lump-sum payments not included on your P60 or P45 e.g. incentive payments
- Documents regarding benefits such as SSP or parental leave
- Documents about savings, investments and pensions.
According to gov.uk, if you’re self-employed, you must keep your records for a minimum of five years after the submission deadline of the relevant tax year. This is the length of time HMRC may request to check your records to ensure you’re paying the correct amount of tax.
You should keep warranty documents as long as you own the product under warranty and as long as the warranty is valid. If you make a purchase and something goes wrong, having your warranty documents and receipts will make it significantly easier to claim a refund, repair, or replacement.
Company and accounting records.
For any company and accounting records, you should keep these for 6 years from the end of the last company financial year they relate to. Businesses not keeping adequate records could receive fines from HMRC. Directors could also be banned from being company directors for not meeting legal responsibilities, one of which includes keeping proper company accounting records.
You should keep loan documents as long as the loan remains open. Once the final amount is paid, it’s wise to keep your final statement for seven years. While this may seem a long time, it could be necessary if you are ever asked for proof that the loan has been paid off by HMRC or even future lenders. An example could be a lender asking you for details of your outgoing expenses. If your bank statements show regular loan payments, they may require proof that the loans are paid off. This is to assess the long-term affordability of any future loans or mortgages. Once seven years have elapsed, it’s probably safe to shred old loan paperwork.
For everything else.
For all documents you no longer need to retain, including the aforementioned, it’s best to use a secure shredding service to dispose of these documents safely. This will avoid the risk of personal information falling into the wrong hands.
At Shred Station, we issue Waste Transfer Notes and Certificates of Destruction after every collection for ultimate peace of mind. Security-vetted personnel will destroy your data, and we mix the document fragments with millions of other fragments. This makes your documents truly impossible to reassemble. For more information about our services and security measures, get in touch today.
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