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How To Replace Destroyed or Lost Important Documents

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When I started my new job, I went through a process familiar to anyone who has ever worked – filling out a W-2 W-4 (you know what I meant!). If you have a passport, filling out a W-4 is easy because you only need that one document. If you don’t have a passport then you’ll need two documents – like a birth certificate and a driver’s license. Well, for about two days I couldn’t find my passport or my birth certificate (I found them after all) but I started to wonder what I would need to do if I had to actually replace them – so, off to the internet I go to find the sources.

One thing to consider doing is photocopy all of your important documents. While they won’t carry as much legal weight, having them is infinitely better than not having them and starting from scratch. At least with a photocopy of the document, you know what organization to seek out to get a certified copy.

Birth Certificate – You will have to go to the Office of Vital Records (that’s the name in New York, your state will probably have a slightly different name) of the state (or sometimes the county, depending on how your state does it) you were born in and submit a request. You will essentially have to provide all the information on the certificate in order to prove that it’s you, which can be tricky if you didn’t photocopy it.

Driver’s License – Your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (or Motor Vehicles Administration, whatever it’s called in your state) is the place to go and you’ll need proof of identification. Check with your state’s DMV to see what you’ll need as it differs slightly from state to state.

Passport – You’ll have to get a replacement from the State Department and I wrote up a relatively detail set of instructions on how to get a passport. You’ll need photo ID so get yourself a driver’s license first if you lost that too.

Social Security Card – Go to your nearby Social Security Administration office to reapply for a new one. I wrote a post about replacing a lost social security card that may be of use, note you’ll need a Driver’s License or a Passport so if you lost those you should get a replacement of those documents before the SSN card.

Property Deed – Your county courthouse will have this on record and will be able to provide a certified copy, usually for a processing fee.

Title Insurance Policy – Your real estate agent (or his or her company) will be able to get you in touch with the title underwriter, who will have a copy of the policy. If you already know who your title insurance underwriter is, since you likely talked to someone there, then you can reach them directly.

Mortgage – Your lender will obviously have this and can get you a copy of your loan agreement.

Car Title – If you still owe money on it, don’t worry, you didn’t lose it because you never had it, your lender does. :) Otherwise, you’ll have to visit the great Department of Motor Vehicles in your state and request a new one. (Thanks CK)

Marriage License (and Divorce papers) – These documents are also at the vital records department, the same place as where you’d get your birth records for except in the county or state you were married in (sorry for the confusion), so go back there to get these records. (Thanks NCN)

Diplomas – Hit up your College or University’s Registrar. (Thanks Mapgirl)

US Permanent Resident Card (Green Card, USCIS Form I-551) – Getting this replaced is straightforward and requires you to fill out USCIS Form I-90 (also available via an online form). USCIS Form I-90 has further instructions as does this page. (Thanks KKai)

Can anyone think of any other important documents I should add to the list?

{ 70 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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70 Responses to “How To Replace Destroyed or Lost Important Documents”

  1. seth says:

    how do i get a copy of my name change documents.

  2. Alice says:

    Got my certified copy of birth certificate and social security card, but not driver’s license or passport.Need to get picture id but name on birth cert. is different than ss card (maiden vs married now divorce) so state wont issue me one have no other records how can I do this?
    Your article was great just need a little more

  3. steve says:

    what do you do if you have no form of id ?i can not get a drivers, birth or any form of id to get anything>

    • Donna says:

      There is a homeless lady here going through same thing. Any information yet?

      Have you ever been married or divorced (court records, in your file)? Work-maybe they kept copy of birth certificate in file?

  4. deepti ahuja says:

    losing important documents has become common and at the same time a very irritating problem. Every second day, i find someone or other, who has lost his/her important papers and peace of mind along with it. And, i am not spared too with this problem. Thus, i decided to take professional help but till now, didn’t find any service that would facilitate individual document management. However, there is this page on facebook, ‘clip to click’, where people seem to be talking about the launch of one such service. I am seriously, waiting for its launch eagerly. let’s see how will it serve its customers.

  5. jennifer says:

    iv lost my name change deeds can anyone help i need them as proof of id for getting passport renewed thanks

  6. Tammi B says:

    My fiance legally changed his name (both first and last, nothing to do with a marriage.) All the websites I’ve found about how to replace his certified document guide me to either information for immigrants, or people who have gotten married. I would love to know where to find this documentation.. Btw his ssn is still the same.

    • margie s says:

      Tammi B. Was he ever able to get a document on the name change? I had my last name changed twice cause i was adopted twice and now trying to get a correctional officer job and they want documents of the name change and no idea how to get them.

  7. Shashwat says:

    hi..i would say you’re thinking about the right thing. Safe keeping of your documents..really..i’d once misplaced some really important papers of mine. A nightmare phase it was that followed. Anyway, i’m commenting here because i read Deepti Ahuja’s comment about kleeto. I’d started using their services (after my nightmarish experience of course) and have been using them for around 2-3months now. They’re a new company and the service is a first here in India. I’m fully satisfied with it and would strongly suggest it to everyone. :)

  8. Beverly says:

    We live in Michigan. My son legally changed his first name when he was 18. He’s 27 now and living in Chicago, IL and just realized he can’t find the name change documentation. He needs it to cash out some bonds and we’ve both been looking online for some help in replacing it. Any advice?

  9. alys grant says:

    I’m in need of help please, my sons girlfreind was homeless for 10 years,she has no living family,no I.D. At all for years,no i.d card,lisence,social security card,birth certificate,we’ve been everywhere & get no straight answers,were told to go to 1 place & they say go to another,etc.she can’t get 1 without other,but has none,its like a catch 22,its been a year now doing this & no sucess.If anyone knows what we can do,where we can go,we been to vital records,ss addmin,Dmv,Dss,already a few times.so far all I’ve seen on this blog is bout everyones problems with all this but no direct answers.your help will be appreciated greatly. Alys

  10. Same Lost says:

    I can not get a driver’s licence without a certified copy of my birth certificate. I can not get a certified copy of my birth certificate without sending a notarized application. I have no way to identifiy myelf to a notry because I have lost my drivers licence. It’s a perfet circle of impossibility! This is crazy!

  11. lily says:

    when I become citizen, I changed my name when i met the immigration officer. unfortunately i lost the document.
    I really don’t know how to do now. if somebody help me, I appreciate very much.


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