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Take an inventory!

While most of us are quarantined at home during the coronavirus stay-at-home order it would be a good time to catch up on some task he might otherwise not have done. I on this list for me and for my recommendations to my clients and friends is the preparation of a good inventory. What I have found to be very effective method of inventory taking is a digital camera, even the camera on a smart phone.

Start on the lowest level for the highest level of your living space. In our case it was a basement. Go around the room and take photographs of each room to show furniture, knickknacks, and everything which is in it. Next open each drawer or door in the room and photographed the contents. It’s important to be able to see in each picture all the contents of the drawer or the closet. Then take a picture of how this level of the building is connected to the next. So for example photograph of the steps leading from the lowest level to the next level. Repeat this procedure for each floor of the house. Then take pictures of the inside of the attic whatever you have as the highest space in your home.

Next step is to go outside your house and photograph the exterior all the way around the house. Then photograph the yard. Try to get the back alley, or the street. Also photograph from outside of your home to your neighbors on all boundaries. If you have a garage, take photographs of the interior including the contents.

When you finish you should have a complete photographic inventory of the inside and outside of your home.

Go back and double check you have the contents of your drawer’s, especially those in which you have valuable items or collections. For example, if you have a clean collection, be sure to photograph all of the items in your coin collection so that an expert coming long after you could see enough detail to evaluate those coins. This is also true for your jewelry. Try to get close enough to the details show. There are many DIY’s on the Internet on how to make a simple structure to photograph glossy surfaces so that the details are easily visible.

Now you have this inventory, what you do with it? Make several copies and disburse them. Do not keep all copies and your home. Perhaps, one should go in your safety deposit box at the bank. Perhaps, one with a trusted relative. Perhaps, one or 2 should be stored in different cloud storage areas.

Why should you have an inventory? In the event of damage, storm, natural catastrophe, theft, flood, virtually any disaster in which you may need to prove what you owned, how you owned it, and so forth. If you have an insurance covered loss, you will need to establish that you had the object or the repair and what it is worth. These photographs of the first steps towards providing evidence of both.

What I like about using this method of photographing with a smart phone is that it is easy, it is quick, and you do not have to spend the time writing down all the information. However, there are some guidelines. So for example suppose you take images of your computer equipment, include model number and serial number.

Remember to take images of the artwork and photographs on your walls. Be sure to take images of your books sufficiently close of the titles are visible. If they are valuable books, take the fly leaves as well. If you have objects art for which you have certificates of authenticity, take pictures of the object and exhibit of authenticity in the same frame if you can. If not, in adjoining frames.

And while you are thinking about this project, pull out your homeowners insurance policy and check the clauses relating to what losses are covered, how much is covered, and most importantly what you’re required to prove. With respect to personal property there are typically 3 types of coverage available depending upon what you purchased. “Actual cash value” is the actual cash value of the item which was lost. So for example in the had a sofa for which you paid $1000. And it’s now 2 years later, the insurance company would be obligated to reimburse you, depending upon the terms of the policy, the value of the sofa with 2 years of depreciation into which would also come into play the condition of the sofa. This is typically a battle of appraisers. The insurance companies appraisers and yours.

“Replacement cost” is another method of evaluation and ensuring your property. This typically refers to replacement for the value of the property itself. So for example, the Sofia purchased was $1000, it’s 2 years later, you are entitled to replacement of $1000.

Another common type of insurance is for “actual replacement cost.” This tends to be a combination of quote actual cash value” and “full replacement cost.” This tends to be you would receive the depreciated value, unless you actually replaced the object and in which case you would receive what the cost you to replace it. How the spells itself out in practice tends to differ from insurance carrier to insurance carrier, and is not always spelled out in the actual policy itself. There are other variations on the reimbursement policy. These are the more popular forms personal property insurance in Maryland.

There are certain items which are not covered by the normal insurance policy. These need to be scheduled on a valuable items policy. I recommend reviewing your inventory with a very knowledgeable property and casualty insurance agent and asking the agent’s advice as to what items, if any, should be scheduled.

So please consider spending a part of a day preparing your visual inventory.

Should You Have a Duplicate Passport?

PLEASE NOTE, THIS IS FOR A DUPLICATE PASSPORT, NOT FOR MULTIPLE PASSPORTS.

Under present regulations, the US State Department allows American citizens to hold at the same time two separate, valid duplicate passports. Here are some reasons to consider holding a duplicate passport.

1. It is not uncommon for Americans to either lose or have their passport stolen while they are abroad. Of course, it is possible to request a replacement emergency passport. This is no fun. The process can be difficult and expensive. Rarely do these emergencies occur at a convenient time or place. Usually an emergency passport is only good for reentry into your home country. So, barring all else, you will need to apply for a new passport prior to your next international travel, if your destination requires a passport.

So if you maintain a duplicate passport, you may not have to change your international travel plans while you are broad. Of course, if your passport is stolen you will still need to report it stolen or lost, both to the local authorities and to the United States State Department, if you were able to continue on your journey. If nothing else, this is a certain amount of emotional security that comes from knowing you have a duplicate passport immediately available.

2. Some countries require both visas and/or travel insurance prior to visitors entering their country. Some countries have even more stringent requirements, for example Russia. So, should you need to make a 2nd set of international travel plans or be in the process of these applications to another country, you may be one passport short.

3. Passports are typically stamped upon entering a country. Sometimes the sheer volume of stamps and visas in a passport invite additional problems and scrutiny in entering a country. Travel particularly in the Middle East with certain passport stamps can augur other difficulties. For example, a stamp from Israel may make it difficult to enter certain countries, at the time of this writing, for example the UAE, Algeria and others.

If under your circumstances a duplicate passport may not be appropriate, consider two alternatives, neither of which is a substitute for passport, but which may suffice depending on your travel plans. They are a Trusted Traveler Card or a passport card. Each typically involves lower fees than a passport and for the experienced traveler has a number of uses.

In addition, please always remember to check the US State Department warnings before foreign travel.

Though it may not be recognized, I always recommend traveling with a properly prepared power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, and a declaration relating to your wishes with respect to medical treatment and end of life treatment. To quote an old commercial, “don’t leave home without them.”

Why should I hire you? Over the years I’ve represented buyers and sellers of residential property, builders, contractors, subcontractors. suppliers, materialmen, surveyors, architects, title companies, realtors, and lenders of residential property, developers of shopping centers, malls, tenants in malls, tenants in freestanding stores, owners of freestanding stores, commercial buildings. Just about every aspect and occupation involved the real estate business, litigation in the secondary mortgage market. That’s where a lender packages his loans and sells them to another lender and then keeps a certain piece to do the servicing.

With this experience it tends to takes me at less time, I think, to go through a lot of these contracts than others. When I see a standard form contract, I recognize what it is and I can quickly see what the changes are from the standard form to the customize, and then I accomplish what I want by talking with the client, finding out what they really want, and explaining to them in everyday terms what the clauses of the contracts mean and how they affect them and what they should do in terms of countering it or accepting it and dealing with it. And I help them make the financial and legal decisions according to what they feel they need to do.

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