Everyone should keep an up-to-date list of their belongings. It's essential to be prepared in case of theft, loss by fire or other cause of serious damage.
Yet the insurance industry estimates that only about 1 in 5 homeowners have such an inventory.
The old fashioned way of going room to room with a notepad and pencil is one way to accomplish this task, but new tools including software and an iPhone app make it much easier.
The latest is new free offering released by the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group.
It's available on www.knowyourstuff.org or by using the III Inventory app, which is available on Apple's iTunes store.
You can enter a list of your belongings through either the website or the app, and the two will be synchronized. All of the information is stored in a personal, password protected account on an Amazon secure server. It can then be accessed anywhere, anytime, which is an important benefit should you have to evacuate your home in an emergency.
The software will guide you through the process of creating and updating the home inventory. As a starting point, there are lists of rooms and item types to make things easier. Photographs, scanned receipts, and appraisal forms can be uploaded. What's more, the software can generate several types of insurance reports, which is helpful if a claim needs to be filed.
A home inventory enables homeowners and renters to determine if they have sufficient insurance coverage. After a loss, it also helps substantiate the amount of the loss for tax purposes or when applying for financial assistance.
While III's software is a recent launch, other inventory programs are available. Check out the one offered by National Association of Insurance Commissioners at www.insureuonline.org. The application, called MyHome Scr.APP.book, is available for both iPhone and Android devices.