Personal Finance 

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. Eugene says:

    Has anyone thought about getting duplicates of those documents and storing at another location. I keep burned cd’s as offsite backups of things like pictures at my parents house in another state. I’m wondering of if I go request a new SS card or birth certificate if it would raise any flags.

  2. jim says:

    Eugene, I wouldn’t recommend getting duplicates of your social security or birth certificates as you very well might raise red flags… but given the effectiveness of the government in sniffing things out, no one may ever see those flags. I think it’s not worth the effort.

  3. julie poteete says:

    Here is my problem…… I had a house fire and lost EVERYTHING now trying to replace them all has become a nightmare!
    I was born in Iowa and live in Texas and I can not get a birth certificate
    without a state ID or a State ID without a birth certificate ^%$#%@^@
    What can a girl do ? Please I need guidance !
    Waiting for a reply in Texas,
    Julie Poteete

  4. Debi says:

    A friend lost all id. birth certificate, ss, driver’s license. He has never had a bank account, credit card or other identifiable commitment. He has been to our local court house, social services, private attorney. No one seems to know how to get him his proper identification. Just read the Katrina person’s thoughts…homeless? If you are homeless do they do a background on you and get proper identification for their files which can be provided to him?

  5. Michael says:

    I have a difficult problem. A relative of mine wants to sell me a property that belonged to her dead grandfather. The property was just recently transfered out of the deceased name, but there is NO DEED. I checked with the county and they have no records whatsoever, just a name and an address that they’ve been mailing tax statements. How can I legally purchase this property and recieve a deed? The property is located in Augusta, GA. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Janet Brown says:

    where or what do you do to get a non-registered birth certificate. The birth certificate was never registered with the Vital Statictics. My son has no identification, he has a social security card, but it was sent back from Sacramento as invalid. Help

  7. Robert H. Humber says:

    How do you replace a lost DD214 Form (Discharge Paper)

  8. Marguarette Washington says:

    How do I replace a lost vehicle title?

    My address is 23814 Sawmill Pass
    Spring, Texas 77373

  9. Anonymous says:

    how do you replace a w-2 tax form?

  10. irinadkk8 says:

    I am from russia and I lost my adoption papers and birthsertificate where do i go to replace those i have copies but every where i go they need the originals i can’t even get a madicade or state id

  11. gbaby -1 says:

    i lost my ID, birth certificate, social security card and everything in the process of moving, i live in Arkansas and it has been three months i’ve went without a job, because i need all these secondary forms that doesnt apply to me

  12. jack says:

    My mother in law is from another country visiting here and broke her hip. She wsa able to get a maedicaid card but now has misplaced it. We don’t know how to replace it without a social security number. Before a hospital obtained it. How can we find her medicaid number?

  13. DALI says:

    hey i have a friend of mine who got roped all her document was withher at the time,, including ssn,,pasport, green card,,and the worst thing is that she never had state id,, i gues she thought she never needed it,,]
    Anyways right know all she can gather is some Copy documents from her job and does not work because in order the RMV department to issue Gov id she will need to bring something that shows her age,,However does not have any thing that shows her date of birth,, now remember she is an immigrant was not born here lost all documents,,she also does not have her green card that showed her date of birth,,
    Please let me know wat service or where we can go to get proof of date of birth etc..

    Thank you,,

  14. T says:

    I lost the certificate of Name can i get a duplicate? and where?


  15. T says:

    oh yeah….i live in California…

  16. Lisa says:

    I have spent over 5 years trying to replace my ssn and I.D. It seems to be a circle that NEVER ends! I can’t replace one without the other… and so it goes. ANY FREE help will be appreciated… Thanks, Lisa

  17. natasha says:

    ok i am a resident here in the us im from dominican republic in oreder to get a social again i lost mines i need a passport to get a passport i need an id to get an id i need a passport and a social securtiy card. so all the way around im screwed any suggestions.

  18. Barbara Kingston says:

    I have a binder that I have filled with clear plastic sleeves. I put important documents into each of the sleeves. For example, all my automobile titles, birth and marriage certificates along with several copies should the children need them for something. I have each of their shot records in the sleeve with their birth certificates, I have copies of my parents birth certificates and marriage/divorce records. Pretty much all of my important docs are in this three inch thick binder. I think for Christmas I will fill one up for each of my married sons, with copies of their documents as well as their childrens.

  19. Latoya says:

    I’m from the island of Trinidad. I’ve been here since I was a teenager. I’ve recently lost my green card, social security card and medical card while transferring them to a new resident I moved to. I reported it lost or stolen because it is uncertain what became of it. I will be getting married soon and my fiancee who is in the army says that i will need documentation when I have to move in with him. Any suggestions on how I go about getting these important documents back?

    Note: I have my foreign passport and birth certificate as i.d. I currently work and also have health insurance. My job may also have a copy of my green card and social. Is there any possible way that I may get problems in getting these documents replaced?

  20. Kristi says:

    I lost my health insurance card recently how would i go about getting a new one?

  21. nigel rodrigues says:

    Well here’s the deal while moving around it seems that i have lost the most important document of all and that’s my naturalization certificate now i’m in a serious jam you see without that certificate i have lost my way. i find myself without a job not even D.M.V will not give me an I.D card without it ,it’s not like i can just get out there and get a job just like that and now if this is’nt a kick in the pants i find myself homeless with my family my parents refuses to help so if you can please help me ,because apperantly nobody else will or like they have told me they can’t please give me some guidance P.L.E.A.S.E .

  22. mnkygrl says:

    how to find your naturalization certificate? what if i cant remember where nor when i got it.
    its just been too many years ago? what can i do.

  23. Tracey Henning says:

    I am a british citizen and when we moved we broke down loads of boxes and put on a bonfire…I noticed a red folder in one too late….it had everything in social security card, passport, and green card. I went to social security office but they need the green card…the passport needs both..I am so scared. I just dont know where to start …if I was American this would be easier but gosh it is always tricky getting my passport here etc when I do have the right documentation.

  24. Lisa Baez says:

    Hi. I have had all of my important documents lost & have been trying for days to replace. Each agency has told me the same thing. I cannot get duplicates without proper id, of which I don’t have. Help me, what can I do to prove who I am without license, birth certificate, social security care & marriage certificate?

  25. elena pascua says:

    i married in U.S.A and i divorce him to Canada and i lost my divorce paper.i believe i need that if i remarried again and also i need that if i apply my cetezen in U.S.A. can you help me where can get a copy.

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