To keep in a safe place: legal documents or those regarding the family
Legal documents as well as civil status certificates should be kept indefinitely. These are documents such as the family record book, the marriage contract, the judgement of divorce or of adoption, diplomas...
To keep for a limited period of time: administrative documents
As opposed to legal documents, the administrative ones must not be kept indefinitely (apart from a few exceptions). Of course, the durations indicated below are minimal ones: nothing prevents you from keeping those documents longer. We have drafted a list of the major administrative documents, organised in categories so as to help you easily find them.
The deceased’s bank statements must be kept for 5 years. Such documents may be useful to settle the succession. As for contracts and documents related to loans (consumer loan, mortgage loan...), they should be kept for 2 years, starting from latest deadline.
Please note that if you wish to make sure that you have identified all the banks where the deceased might have bank accounts, you can request research.
Documents regarding insurances should be kept at leats 2 years. If it is an insurance policy contract, it should be kept for 2 years starting from its expiry date. As for proofs of payment, termination letters or notices of payment, the 2-year period starts as of the date stated on the document itself. However, if you are the beneficiary of the deceased’s life insurance plan, you should keep the related documents for at least 10 years.
Please note that it is the deceased’s relatives that will have to take care of the various insurance policies. They may either terminate them or contact the insurance companies to update them. Again, if you are not sure to have identified all the policies purchased by the deceased, we can help you undertake research.
If the deceased person owned the housing (house/flat), the property deed as well as all related legal documents should be kept (including documents proving that works have been done). If the decease was a tenant, the lease contract, the housing inventory and rent receipts should be kept for 3 years starting from the end of the rent. The certificates to prove boiler maintenance must be kept for 2 years, 5 years for joint-ownership's general meeting’s minutes while invoices for works should be kept from 2 (small works) to 10 years (bigger works). Finally, you should keep invoices related to the housing (gas, water, power...) for 5 years and those linked with services (phone, internet, TV...) for 1 year.
Once again, if the deceased person was a tenant, you will have to undertake all the necessary administrative steps regarding his housing. Furthermore, if water, gas, the internet (or any other services) are no longer necessary, you should not forget to terminate the contracts. You may also have them switched to your name (for example, if you are the deceased’s partner and still live in the house).
Documents regarding work/retirement
One should also avoid getting rid of documents regarding work and/or retirement too early. Indeed, if the deceased person was still working at the time of the passing, you should check that the employer actually pays the last salary. Work contracts and pay slips should be kept for 5 years or until the end of the “survivor’s pension”, if the partner is entitled to it. The same applies to documents related to the pension’s payments (if the deceased person was retired): they should be kept as they might be important to calculate the amount of the possible survivor’s pension.
As for documents from the mutual, it all depends on the organisation in charge of the files. Should you not find the dates on the contracts, do not hesitate to contact the mutual where the deceased was registered. As for health insurance documents, they should be kept for 2 years.
Documents regarding the vehicle
Keep all fines and tickets for 2 years. As for the car itself, the purchase and repair invoices should be kept if you inherit from the car and decide to keep it. Otherwise, you should keep them for 2 years after selling the car.
You should also note that if you inherit from a vehicle, you should receive the ad hoc documents allowing you to sell it or to have it registered under your name.
Finally, income tax returns should be kept for 3 years, starting from the last taxation year. If the deceased was subject to any property or housing tax, please keep the related documents for 1 year (3 if there were waivers).
A few precautions
This list is certainly not comprehensive. If you have any doubt, you should keep the document rather than throwing it away, even if your cabinet is already full! And if you really wish to empty your drawers, you may also scan the documents. In this way, they will no longer overfill your house and they will always be at hand (and it also makes sure that you have a copy of the document, in case it is lost or stolen). You can keep the scans on a dedicated file in your computer or on a drive. Moreover, having a digital copy of the document might be useful when communicating with several administrative bodies (often via email).
Finally, please note that some of the above-mentioned information/documents may also be safely stored in your Morning Blue Passport. Everyone may upload documents there or enter useful information, which makes life easier for the relatives! Do not hesitate to give it a try (before you get rid of all the papers)!