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Seniors Series: What's in your house?

Inventory belongings -- you won't regret it

Tricia Hoekwater returned home from work one day in 2000 to find that her house had been robbed.

"Besides the violation was the difficulty of filing an insurance claim," she recalled during a recent Tri-Valley presentation. "It took weeks. I had to figure out what was missing, creating a list with the current value. It was a painful learning experience."

Hoekwater remembered the distressing incident years later when she decided to start her own business, and she has been working since 2008 as a home inventory specialist. Her company, Uniquely Yours Digital Solutions, does home inventories for people so they will be prepared for a disaster.

"We're in a drought and there are lots of brush fires -- it can happen," Hoekwater said.

She currently works with a woman in San Mateo who had a fire that resulted in extensive smoke damage. Someone else she knows had a washing machine flood, causing damage to the floor and the things on the floor.

"If you were asked to list everything in your living room, could you?" Hoekwater asked. "Especially if you have a loss, you are really stressed."

"Proper documentation produces faster insurance claim settlements and maximum reimbursements," she said.

It also verifies losses for tax returns, she noted.

Complete inventories are helpful for estate planning or in case of a divorce or combining households in a new marriage, Hoekwater explained, plus knowing the value of belongings helps people get the proper amount of insurance.

"Seventy percent of American homes are underinsured by 30% or more," Hoekwater said.

At the very least, Hoekwater urges folks to take photographs of every room, nook and cranny of their homes. She also emphasizes the importance of writing down information from purchases, including the make, model, serial number, date of purchase, description and purchase price.

It can be an overwhelming task to attend to every detail, she said, which is where her company can help. She prepares a comprehensive catalog of the entire contents of a home with supporting documentation, photos and a video, including scanning and organizing family photos, critical documents and receipts and warranties. The client receives three copies of the inventory, as well as a LifeFolio with data, vital records and key contacts. Family photos are archived at Timeshaker.com.

"You can do it yourself but it is very time-intensive," Hoekwater said.

"You may never need it, I hope you never need it," she added.

Contact Hoekwater at uniquelyyours@outlook.com or call 206-0103.

What to inventory

* Family photos

* Rental or vacation properties

* Appliances

* Art work

* Collections/memorabilia

* Electronics

* Heirloom items/antiques

* Individual household rooms and contents

* Jewelry

* Receipts/warranties

* Vehicles

Commonly overlooked items

* AC and furnace

* Alarm systems

* Appliances

* Batteries (rechargeable, bulk purchases)

* Books

* Ceiling fans

* Cleaning products

* Clothing

* Craft items

* Daily-use items

* Disposable items (toiletries, etc.)

* Draperies

* Drawer pulls

* Electronics chargers

* Food

* Glasses and contacts

* Handbags

* Home-based business items

* Items you don't use regularly: holiday decorations, sports equipment

* Junk drawer

* Lighting

* Linens

* Medications

* Non-standard upgraded items

* Granite countertops

* Office supplies and equipment

* Pet items

* Photos and the history behind them

* Software license information

* Storage boxes

* Thermostats

* Toys

Editor's note: Inventory lists provided by Tricia Hoekwater.

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