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How To Replace Destroyed or Lost Important Documents

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 [3]. 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 [4] 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 [5] (also available via an online form). USCIS Form I-90 has further instructions as does this page [6]. (Thanks KKai)

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